Loading...
Bless our stormwater system's heart (does it have one?). Seemed to hold up pretty well to me, Calvin. Stormwater is...

Europe stemming the tide of plastic pollution

061718tarrivercleanup-1.jpg

Plastics litter the Tar River during clean up event in June 16. The European Union is considering a ban on many single use plastics.

Loading…

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The European Commission's proposal to ban plastic straws, plates, cutlery and drink stirrers, and slash the consumption of many other single-use products, is more than just a nice, novel idea. It's a step urgently needed from every country — as plastic trash pours into the oceans at the rate of almost 9 million tons a year.

The flood of trash is killing fish, turtles, seals, coral and birds, and getting into the seafood people eat. If no action is taken, over the coming decade it stands to increase tenfold.

The problem stems from the sheer volume of plastic in existence — more than 9 billion tons, most of it produced since 2000 — and from humanity's haphazard efforts to dispose of it. Three-fourths of plastic produced goes to waste, and less than a tenth of that gets recycled, though Europe does a better job than the global average, recycling nearly 30 percent.

Countries with competent waste-management systems bury a lot of the plastic refuse in landfills. But many low- and middle-income countries can't cope with the rising volume, and much ends up getting tossed to the four winds. Abandoned to nature, plastic lasts for centuries, breaking apart into ever smaller pieces but never assimilating into earth or water.

The challenge, first, is to stop any more of this plastic from reaching the ocean. Bigger landfills aren't a lasting solution. Many counties lack adequate space, and unless landfills are well built, they can contaminate surrounding water and soils. Nor would it be wise to expand incineration, presently the fate of about 12 percent of the world's plastic trash. Burning emits toxic residue from softeners and dyes, as well as copious amounts of carbon dioxide. (Plastics, after all, are made of hydrocarbons.)

Fundamentally, too, when plastic is landfilled or incinerated, the opportunity to conserve the energy used to create it is lost, and an endless stream of waste is generated. This is why the EU, like many conservation groups, has adopted a three-R approach: Reduce plastic use, reuse the stuff that's needed, and recycle everything that can't be reused.

The EU's proposed ban is aimed at reducing the most easily substituted plastics - the single-use implements that are often used away from home and littered. They account for 50 percent of trash on EU beaches. And their use is now expanding rapidly in developing countries.

The ban is just one of a set of measures proposed. Eventually, countries would also have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups, perhaps by encouraging alternatives. Manufacturers of plastic food containers, cigarette filters, fishing gear and other products not banned would be required to help pay for litter prevention and clean-up. The EU aims to increase the amount of plastic that gets recycled to more than 50 percent by 2025, including 90 percent of disposable plastic bottles — by pushing manufacturers to create materials that are easily reusable or recyclable, for instance, and by encouraging a larger market for recycled plastic.

The recycling challenge has become more urgent now that China has stopped doing the job for other countries. Until recently China had been the world's biggest importer of plastic for recycling, and Europe, the biggest exporter.

It will take many months for the EU's plastics proposal to work its way through the European Parliament and the European Council and, if it is approved, years more to phase in. Europe needs to move with all possible speed, and other countries must be quick to follow suit — not just with isolated bans on plastic bags, bottles or straws, but with similarly comprehensive efforts to stem the entire plastic tide.

Bloomberg Opinion

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Editorials

September 18, 2018

"The youth use of e-cigs is rising very sharply," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday, as he issued the federal government's most forceful warning yet that these electronic nicotine-delivery devices are hooking a generation of teenagers. He promised that…

Flavored Vaping Sales Ban

September 17, 2018

America shouldn’t be in the coup business. Period.

It’s a relief, then, to learn that the Trump administration chose not to aid rebellious leaders in Venezuela seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. But it’s worrisome to think that President Trump and his advisers…

Venezuela Nicolas Maduro

September 14, 2018

Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal penalties at the federal level. As Congress debates criminal justice reform, mens rea reform should be on the table.

For years, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced and called for…

Trump Finance-3

September 13, 2018

It is tremendously sad and horrific to think about the forthcoming disaster and what it could bring to our communities and our neighbors to the south. We did nothing, really, other than live like we always have, to bring this on ourselves. Nevertheless, it is here.

Hurricane Florence, a major storm…

091218Sandbagging-4.jpg

September 12, 2018

You can add the name Jordan McNair to the list of college, high school and middle school players who might have needlessly died for the love of football.

A simple, well-known procedure — immersing McNair, 19, in a tub of ice water — when he collapsed at an off-season University of…

082918ECUFootball-5.jpg

September 11, 2018

By now, few might lift an eyebrow at President Trump’s crusade to delegitimize his own Justice Department and, specifically, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It long ago became clear that Trump regards federal law enforcement — as he sees all of government — as a political…

Trump Sessions

September 08, 2018

Republican state lawmakers decided last week to investigate the Cooper administration’s slow response to Hurricane Matthew relief in some of the state’s hardest-hit areas. That could be a useful exercise, if our legislators use what they find to fix real problems, and they don’t…

090518Cooper-HilmaGreens-2

September 07, 2018

When all of the state’s living former governors, including Pat McCrory, and all of the state’s former chief justices, including arch-conservative I. Beverly Lake Jr., come out against something unanimously, chances are it’s a bad idea.

Even the General Assembly had to notice…

North Carolina Ballot Battle

September 07, 2018

If President Donald Trump hadn’t bragged at a campaign rally in Alabama that if he were an NFL owner, he would fire any “son of a bitch” who knelt during the national anthem, would Colin Kaepernick be a face of Nike’s Just Do It campaign?

Would a black-and-white image of…

Kaepernick Nike

September 06, 2018

State Treasurer Dale Folwell asked a simple question: How much should North Carolina taxpayers be shelling out for state workers to receive care at UNC Health medical facilities?

The University of North Carolina Health Care System’s answer: That’s a secret.

State employees won’t…

103 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 11
        Next Page»   Last Page»