Creative Director and Co-founder, Plastic Pollution Coalition

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How do we reduce single use and disposable plastics in our package, production and supply streams and move towards a sustainable world?.

Our use of single use and disposable plastics has spiraled out of control.
Our Ocean has become a plastic soup.
How do we turn off the faucet and move away from this careless use of plastics?
How do we reduce disposable plastics and the exposure to the toxins that leach from these into our bodies and the environment and our Oceans?
We are looking for solutions...

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    Apr 12 2011: While in many areas of our life, plastic appears to be unavoidable, there are also areas where we can improve.
    1) When I was a kid, soft drinks, milk, beer,....came in glass bottles for which one had to pay a deposit. In other words, they rarely landed in the environment. Why not doing the same for plastic bottles, or, going even a step further, for any kind of plastic packaging ?
    2) Increase the concept of refill. Example: A large Brazilian Cosmetic company sells refills for most of their products. Not only, is a refill cheaper than the original packaging, but also reduces the associated waste.
    3) Put more research into sustainable forms of plastics. There are natural and biodegradable polymers around that probably can replace the "bad" guys such as polyolefines, PVC, etc.
    4) last but not least, be more conscious in our purchases. Avoid buying stuff that comes with a lot of plastic around it.

    Consumers also should educate themselves more on the different types of plastic and where they are used.
    Plastic is a very generic term and not all the stuff called plastic is equally bad.
  • Apr 13 2011: Move backwards. Although not ancient, I am old enough to remember glass bottles and paper milk cartons and paper bags. Everything had a use. Grocery bags became trash bags, pop bottles went back to the factory and were refilled. Toys came in boxes or simply sat on the shelves. My Barbie Dream House was printed cardboard, all of it except the cellophane sliding door. Before milk cartons there were bottles that were refilled, just like any other beverage. Basically, we used everything we purchased, and honestly there wasn't the amount of trash in my home growing up as I see in my children's homes. And there's this, we didn't consume then like people do now. We had less. Homes were under 1000 square feet, Look at the size of closets in post war homes. There was little to no electronic waste, televisions were kept going by replacing a tube.
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    Apr 5 2011: Why is the ownership of the waste passed on to the consumer?

    Companies that produce any product should be made responsible for the re-use or disposal of any waste generated by the product and it's packaging (and transport!).

    You might argue that it is the consumer's choice to buy and therefore their responsibility to deal with the waste but it can also be argued that, if the product isn't available, then it can't generate waste. So who's responsible - the generator or the user?

    If industry and companies are charged with the responsibility of managing the waste generated by their products and packaging (in other words, they are involved in the entire production cycle) then I'm sure we would quickly see some change.
    • Apr 8 2011: I was on a tour of a paint factory in Germany 20 years ago and was impressed by a law that stated that if any product was wrapped more than once, the manufacturer had to charge a deposit on layers 2 and up and set up a return depot to pay back deposits when the layers were returned. If paint came in a can with a paper label around it, the label had to be refundable, so all paint came in painted cans to avoid that. I still think of this every time I buy plastic garbage bags wrapped in a plastic bag!

      Perhaps there are some baby steps that could be taken that wouldn't offend free-marketers like me but that would move us in the right direction.
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    Apr 28 2011: There are several aspects to this question.

    One might break it down as follows:
    1. How do we clean up the mess we've already made?
    How about using our commercial fishing fleets to collect the garbage?
    How about using our Navy to collect the garbage?
    How about adding to the Coast Guard Mission patrol and enforcement of anti-dumping laws?
    2. How do we reward recycling and re-purposing efforts to make inappropriate disposal of these elements economically unsound?
    Add a tax to the raw materials and a deposit similar to the glass bottles
    Add a tax credit for those manufacturers that re-process and purchase recycled materials
    Expanding recycling collection stations at banks, grocery stores, gas stations and other places.
    3. How do we replace these plastics in the streams with other items that do not harm the environment, serve the same purpose and are cost-neutral or cheaper?

    I suspect there are a variety of approaches that can be worked concurrently on each of the three sub-problems.

    I would propose an X-Prize like award to spawn global, creative, cross-discipline solutions in each of the three areas.
    Here, I would propose some brainstorming focus groups on each of the topics.

    There have been many fine ideas and alternative streams of thought generated by your question - maybe start by mining this conversation and building from there.

    It's likely our solutions will need support of various governments through policy, legislation, prosecution and other structures.
    It's likely our solutions will need support of business, industry and technology to build viable large scale solutions.
    It's likely our solutions will need support of education, philanthropic and not-for-profit groups to spread the word and develop the initiatives and projects to do the work.

    If we build a framework, it can be done in a coordinated manner, and people can work on the parts of it that suit their talents and interests.

    Thank you for keeping the conversation going
  • Apr 25 2011: My town recycles "1" and "2" plastics. But all the others we have to throw away.
    What are the attributes to the different grades? Which ones are easier to reuse? If plastic is made from oil, Why can't we burn it to make electricity?
    I buy yougurt. It comes in "5" plastic containers. I wash and save them figuring I will find a use for them at some point. I do not buy Yoplait as the container does not stack.
    When you take paper over plastic you are getting a heavier,bulkier, product that takes more fuel to ship. When you "reuse" bags to pick up after your dog you are still throwing them away and adding doggie discharge in the landfill as well. You could use paper and dig a hole. If you do not have a place for the waste, you should not have the animal that generates it.
    As for sorting garbage: Where are all the unemployed? How about the prisoners? I think the prisoners should have a long bicycle generating machine they all sit on and pedal, generating electricity for the rest of us. The unemployed should sweep the streets, shovel the snow, rake leaves, mow lawns, etc. Show up to "job duty" and get your "slip" for the day to turn in for food or shelter. This would reduce out state workers and town employees. Single mothers should be housed in dorms and split up the duties, ie 3 can cook, 3 can clean, 3 can watch the kids, and the rest can work or go to school.

    Am I too radical?

    Chris
    • Apr 27 2011: "When you "reuse" bags to pick up after your dog you are still throwing them away and adding doggie discharge in the landfill as well. You could use paper and dig a hole. If you do not have a place for the waste, you should not have the animal that generates it."

      A plastic shopping bag is made from one small drop of liquid. It's contribution to the landfill is so small as to be irrelevant. (In my city, 80%+ of landfill trash is construction materials.) The dog poop inside the bag decomposes within a few days of the bag decomposing. The typical supermarket bag is already made with recycled plastic and starts to break down within about three months of burial. You can't use a paper bag because the plastic bag acts as both the glove for picking up and the container for what gets picked. Try that with a paper bag.

      The focus of reduce-reuse-recycle nazis on supermarket bags is utterly misplaced. They are a trivial part of the problem. Banning them or charging a nickel apiece is just a way for meddlesome liberals to feel sanctimonious while avoiding the real problem.

      BTW, you can burn plastic for fuel. I saw something recently. You'll have to Google it because I forget where I saw/read about it.

      In my area, the sorting of recyclables is done by learning-disabled people. (Is that the PC phrase?)
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        Apr 28 2011: Revett, would it be possible for you to provide us with the source of your statistic "80%+ of landfill trash is construction materials?" I am very curious. Thank you!
        • Apr 29 2011: I said IN MY CITY, 80% of landfill trash is construction waste. It was reported in the local paper about two months ago. If I remember correctly, it was in an interview with the chief trashman (whatever he is called!) I have no idea whether the statistic applies to other places.
  • Apr 23 2011: I'm looking at this from a different perspective. I'm the inventor of the Ubuntu-Blox, google it. We use film and foam plastics to make building blocks for housing in developing nations. No fossil fuels required, no electricity etc, either.

    I want to get the message out that these plastics aren't evil in themselves. They aren't trash nor are they to be recycled. They are materials needed for building homes.

    One of the interesting things we've found is those in the developing nation situation don't want to consider using plastic trash for building a home. That's because it is trash and can't be used for anything, much less building a home. That is similar to the attitudes we see with those concentrating on recycling as the only answer to plastic pollution.

    Both of those positions are all about negativity. We can do better than that.

    The upside of seeing plastic pollution as opportunity is we give the plastic value. Value initiates collection. It also initiates consideration which inspires creativity. I like to think that our processing plastic trash into building blocks also encourages us to think about more than acquiring plastic for building a house. It also makes us consider where it came from and where it will eventually end up.

    I've said almost from day one that our machine and construction will initiate the recycling of plastic where ever it is used. As soon as plastics are collected the recyclers will show up. People will then have to weigh the cash offered by the recyclers against the utility of having a great home made with little out of pocket expense. Those conversations will make more aware consumers than all the sloganeering and fear mongering ever will.

    It's an opportunity. We just need to look at it that way.
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    Apr 14 2011: Low hanging fruit approach would be good. All stores, including supermarkets must stop using plastic bags by a future date, say 3 months. Paper will be substituted, and charged for, unless of course you bring your own linen cloth bags, which we already do. Stop selling bottles of water, instead introduce bulk dispensers of water and the public bring containers to fill. Simple really, what did people do before plastic? Liquids supplied in glass bottles or cans, do you see beer in plastic bottles? Why not? It really is not that difficult, is it?
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      Apr 15 2011: Alan, sometimes things aren't quiet as they appear. It might probably come as a surprise to you that plastic bottles have actually a lower carbon footprint than glass bottles.
      Reason for that:
      1) glass bottles are about 12x heavier than plastic bottles, which means, although the production of plastic has a higher carbon footprint/lb, the footprint per packaging unit is much lower.
      2) energy (fuel) demand for transportation is far higher for glass bottled stuff than for plastic bottled.
      3) Setting these shortcomings off a bit is the fact that glass is easily recycled for reuse in glass bottles. Recycled plastic is rarely, if ever, used for bottles because it's far more expensive than virgin plastic
      Bottom line is, plastic bottles have a smaller environmental impact than glass bottles.
  • May 4 2011: A quick scan through all previous 52 comments. Nowhere a suggestion that we encourage, allow and work towards reducing the population of consumers i.e. people. What good is it to reduce our footprint by 50% if in the meantime the human population trebles?
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    May 4 2011: We must vote with our dollar. Every time we purchase a plastic item we are supporting its production. unfortunately, goods with biodegradable packaging is either more expensive or unavailable. the reason it is unavailable is that there is no profit in packaging that is slightly more expensive to produce but biodegradable. when it is available, it is more expensive because green containers are a novelty. this will never change unless the consumer demands it, making it profitable.
    On a fundamental level the problem is capitalism. the real issue is that the objective of capitalism is money, not provide for the customer or improve the well-being of the human race. it is an illusion that capitalism is self monitoring. theoretically companies that provide low quality goods will go under because no one would buy them. either we need to stop buying low quality, non green goods or find a new system. as simple as that is, it is extremely difficult to achieve. a friend and I made a pact not to buy anything with a disposable plastic. it has proven to be extremely difficult. it has caused me to become almost completely a vegetarian. i don't know what I'm going to do when i have to change my oil.
  • Apr 29 2011: I am a builder, and Your Home is Garbage
    http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=17&ved=0CEAQIDAGOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwebcache.googleusercontent.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dcache%3AGIcU5qB8tMcJ%3Aseanmichaelbutler.wordpress.com%2F2009%2F01%2F05%2Fyour-home-is-garbage%2F%2BMonolith%2BBiocrete%2BBiobloc%26cd%3D17%26hl%3Den%26ct%3Dclnk%26gl%3Dca%26client%3Dsafari%26source%3Dwww.google.ca&ei=0ES3TefkNIPs0gGZ8pjyDw&usg=AFQjCNH0O3R3_vPEeJbNDjB81poLby_shQ
    35 yrs. working in residential construction has taught me some things over the years, and the opportunities for the future in my field are as relevant now as in the past.
    Waste resources are plentiful, and the architecture is exciting and bold, a mix of Indigenous and Western Knowledge to meet human scale need's, and the diversity of life we share with all others.
    Like the forest for the trees, "Our built environments" can be the key to sustainable shared environments.
    Waste is a Valuable Resource
    http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=17&ved=0CEAQIDAGOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwebcache.googleusercontent.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dcache%3AGIcU5qB8tMcJ%3Aseanmichaelbutler.wordpress.com%2F2009%2F01%2F05%2Fyour-home-is-garbage%2F%2BMonolith%2BBiocrete%2BBiobloc%26cd%3D17%26hl%3Den%26ct%3Dclnk%26gl%3Dca%26client%3Dsafari%26source%3Dwww.google.ca&ei=0ES3TefkNIPs0gGZ8pjyDw&usg=AFQjCNH0O3R3_vPEeJbNDjB81poLby_shQ
  • Apr 28 2011: I own a number of website businesses which sell goods online. I have been thinking for sometime about the idea that our customers could be given a choice of how they would like their products packaged. If retailers worldwide offered consumers a choice of packaging, the problem of disposable, no degradable items would be highlighted and undoubtedly some consumers would choose more sustainable packaging.
    In the UK, most retailers have taken positive action to reduce the number of plastic bags, if a similar approach was taken to plastic packaging it would have a huge impact. For example if we were offered drinks such as milk in glass bottles I am sure a worthwhile percentage of people would be prepared to pay a little extra if they understood that they would be helping to reduce the environmental impact of plastics.
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    Apr 26 2011: The problem is enormous, but there are revolutionary breakthroughs on the horizon. The answer is not always recycling. Reduction is also key. Product packages like the one at beerpouch.com are reducing the amount of plastic and bauxite necessary to contain carbonated beverages. The beerpouch is far greener than a bottle or can, and holds the beverages without oxygen which greatly improves shelf life. Beerpouch.com offers beverage pouches that are made of corn based plastic as well. I believe this is the solution you were looking for. Re useable, Easily compostible, non polluting containers.
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    Apr 25 2011: I live in Japan, and some manufacturers are moving away from PET bottles and steel/aluminum cans. I think as individuals and responsible consumers, it is important of course to do simple things like stay away from buying products unnecessarily wrapped with plastics, but we should also try to voice out to manufacturers on how we prefer our packaging to be like. I make sure that i fill questionaires when i have a chance.
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    Apr 24 2011: The solution is so obvious.
    1) Make a list of those that create or trade with single use and disposable plastics in our package, production and supply streams.
    2) Ask them to stop.
    3) When they ignore you - Penalise them harshly.

    Good luck with this one.

    ===========

    The alternative solution is to create machines with Genuine artificial intelligence smart enough to search through mountains of rubbish and separate materials by type... including plastic. Then we can recycle it.

    We are too stupid to do it yet.
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    Apr 23 2011: Don't buy bananas wrapped in single serve cellophane packaging would be a good start.
    http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/del-monte-bananas-get-second-packaging-skin/
  • Apr 21 2011: Lobby for taxes on all ridiculous packaging, and tax credits for companies that reach targets for biodegradable packaging. The environmental cost needs to be reflected in the cost on the shelf.
  • Apr 21 2011: Governments try to arouse people's attention using advertisements, and other means.Education is really crucial too. From young children, we need to teach them about the environment and costs.Let's try to reduce disposable plastics now.
    • Apr 23 2011: I believe changing the habits of adults is almost impossible.

      However, we have this great lever that will do all of our screaming of facts and threats of doom won't. it's their children.

      I believe we need to initiate programs that teach children about plastic pollution and what it means to their future. I see Ubuntu-Blox (google it) as a great way to do that. We explain to them that foam plastic cup or container isn't trash, nor is it something they need to recycle to make the earth better. We teach them that cup, tray, or container is needed for housing for kids just like them that are living in a developing nation. We give them something tangible they can relate to and they will become engaged. Their parents will too, just the way it works.
  • Apr 21 2011: The most obvious and easy thing to do is stop buying disposable plastic. Just simply stop, and don't make up excuses as to why you have to have it. Plain and simple you do not need it to survive. It seems like people these days are plastaholics or have some addiction to plastic; likely they are addicted to the caffeine and convenience found in a lot of plastic containers. So, just stop buying drinks at the store and drink water from the tap or drinking fountains. Use reusable bags. You'll be a lot healthier and so will the environment. If you're worried about heavy metals in tap water, get a filter. I personally use ball jars if I want a good sealed container, or I reuse glass food containers.

    This subject falls under a greater heading. People these days have become used to things to an extent they think they need them. Like people say they "need" to get some cigarettes or "need" coffee or "need" to turn on the air conditioner. You simply don't need to. It is an addiction that you would be better off without.
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    Sky F

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    Apr 21 2011: Replace it with glass.
  • Apr 19 2011: After a recent legislation, in my city Bangalore, shops began to charge extra for polythene / plastic bags. This reduced their usage considerably. Actually I have sturdy jute bags of various sizes that I reuse to carry my shopping and actively refuse any polythene bags. I have seen many others following the trend of carrying bags from home for their shopping. More than plastic bottles, the polyethylene bags are a bigger mess as they tend to mix more with the soil, rendering it difficult for plants to grow. Governments all across the world should tax plastic packaging more and make other forms of packaging (jute, paper) more economically viable.

    http://www.mid-day.com/news/2011/mar/310311-polythene-bags-less-than-40-microns.htm
  • Apr 19 2011: Plastic recyclers are a bunch of complainers. I understand the polymers in a fundamental way. There are hundreds of products that could be manufactured without all the sorting. Everyone thinks that a recycled material has to be returned to some pristine state. That is simply untrue. It only needs be good enough for the process. If an entrepreneur can pay enough for the plastic from the community kids will be out collecting them. The process and the material must have enough end value to justify the collection costs. I like the idea of landscaping logs made from recycled plastic, ground and extruded. The different plastics wouldn't mix but they would adhere and intertwine. Why not?
  • Apr 14 2011: I don't disagree with a lot of the comments that have already been made, but to give a little credit where it is due, the automobile industry -- which is one of the heaviest users of plastic in the world -- has done a very good job of coding and classifying plastic parts for recycling. Virtually all the plastic in a modern auto can now be recycled. In most western countries, it is.

    On a smaller scale, yes, we should all try to do our own little bit. I have two large dogs. I reuse plastic grocery bags. (Further explanation unnecessary.) You would be amazed how many plastic grocery bags have small holes in them.
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      Apr 14 2011: I also have a large dog and I'm well aware of the holes in the plastic bags....seems to be an universal problem ;-)
  • Apr 14 2011: There is some wonderful work being done with in the recycling of plastics at Penn. State University by Jim Garthe and others through the creation of "Plastofuel". They turn 2, 4, 6, and 7 plastic types (at this time) into pellets and other shapes that can be used on Korean and similar plastic burners to be harnessed as electricity.

    To address two questions folks will ask immdiately:
    -Carbon output is negligible for cetain types of plastics. One or two of them is noticeable but certainly nowhere near coal's.
    -This still leaves open the question of the consumer responsibly recycling plastic. However, if it is used as a fuel, I think power plant companies would offer incentive for giving your plastic to them.

    All the information is up on the web; google Plastofuel PSU Jim Garthe.
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    Apr 13 2011: I want to finish my thought here as I ran out of space below.

    There are also other factors into why our packages are created larger than needed. Theft is an issue, the smaller the package the easier it is to steal. This jacks up prices in stores because they take the hit on stolen property. Also our perceived value changes when we see less packaging. I think we are in the midst of this idea changing because people are actually concerned with the environment, but this will take longer to catch on in terms of our perceptions and reactions because I believe it is already ingrained in us. Packages are often created to protect the contents inside, this sometime leads to using more material, such as cardboard, or plastic as different types of plastic create a stronger, more durable package. If we were not shipping these products all over the world we may not need to create super durable packaging. Now this seems like an entirely different conversation. The distribution and supply chains would have to change, this would reduce pollution, packaging, and allow for things to be created and used within our communities.
  • Apr 13 2011: To cut plastic use in half would be a good start. To do this the packaging would have to better fit the contents. I take a lot of supplements and every bottle is always half full of product. Or half empty depending how you look at it. This should be done across the board though. Cereal boxes are half full. Just about everything you buy has at least twice as much packaging as is needed. I'm sure that this is done to fool the consumer into thinking they are getting more for their money. So this would work both in saving the planet and promoting more ethical practice in business. Of course the best solution would be to have reusable glass containers and everything in bulk. I never take a plastic bag at stores. It is too easy to have my own bags when I go shopping.
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      Apr 13 2011: Actually the reason why many cereal boxes, pill containers, and other packaging is always the same size is because these are standard sizes. In order to change these sizes every time you have a different amount of content inside the company would have to retool their machines thus hiking up the costs of everything involved, including the end price. Could you imagine how many tools would be wasted if we redesigned the package every time we had lesser contents? Just replacing the type of waste is not going to help the situation. I think a better solution in this case is to become advocates in our communities about recycling as well as changing our behavior. We do not need to use plastic bags when we go to the grocery store, we can choose to bring our own bags. But this requires us to change our habits. In the case of other forms of packaging, why not have cereal dispensers in stores, you bring your own box or bag, this also allows us to have choices in how much we think we need. Why not be able to customize our shopping experience? There are also very creative ways in which we can design our packages so that people want to hold on to them or reuse them in some way. I really love the comment below from Lillian, she speaks about this concept. We used to keep our Barbie boxes because they turned into houses and carry containers. Our milk bottles were glass, they could be reused for milk or be made into vases for our flowers, they can be put into our gardens for decoration, made into gifts for friends. This entire idea of plastic packaging needs to change. But sometimes taking away actually makes the product cost more. Take for example a child's toy being packaged with windows around the cardboard box so that you, the consumer, can see and touch the product. We have eliminated the plastic window in this case. Someone hands this box to their child to look at, the child rips through the open windows, the product is now damaged. It is not just the companies who are to blame.
      • Apr 13 2011: Actually many of the supplements I take come in 2 or 3 different sizes. All of the plastic bottles are different sizes and all are half full. Same with cereal boxes there are different sizes for each amount and all half full. Just about everything you buy that comes in different measured amounts has it's own size container. What do you know of that comes in standard sized packaging housing different amounts of product?

        I think eliminating plastic in the first place is better than recycling.
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        Apr 14 2011: Hi Tiffany,
        I agree partially with your comments.
        1) yes, there are standard sized packaging, but there are many different ones to choose from. So, having a pill bottle that's twice the size it needs to be isn't really a good idea. The reason behind that is most likely that the company selling these pills, prefers to minimize the number of items in their stock. So instead of stocking 5 different sizes of packaging, they just use 1 to fit all, even if that means in some cases half the bottle is empty.
        2) about glass bottles vs. plastic: Yes, I remember that time too, when everything came in returnable glass bottles. On the surface, that might look like the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, however, reality is a bit different. The fact is that glass bottles have to go back to the factory to be cleaned. Not only does that cost energy but it also uses a lot of chemicals that again go back into the environment together with the labels that are removed from the bottles. So, comparing glass bottles to plastic bottles I'm not so sure what is better for the environment.
        3) I agree that we should try to avoid plastic wherever we can. There are many opportunities for that. If we cannot avoid it, then we should try to recycle and reuse. For example, you could cut plastic bottles in half and use the lower half as a planting pot. Btw, I also use cardboard boxes as planting posts and after that the go to the compost heap.
        4) food dispenser in stores. Yes, this is a good idea and it already exists in some places. However, the problem is hygiene and liability. Let's say you get your milk from a dispenser in the store and fill your own bottle and then get sick. Who is responsible ? Was the milk in the dispenser contaminated or your bottle ?
        5) as I pointed out in my other post, the term "plastic" is a very wide term and can mean a lot of stuff. Not all of them are bad. So we also need to define what kind of plastic we are talking about.
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        Apr 15 2011: I gave you a thumbs up ... your suggesting simple changes that would make a big impact.
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    Apr 13 2011: Does any government have a quota on the amount of plastic their country can produce ? It moves back into red-tapism India where everything required a license ! I agree with Samantha that disposal, collection, and recycling is the solution. Several European countries are making efforts here
  • Apr 13 2011: If you've tried to stop buying things with plastic packaging you realize the scope of the issue. Plastic is cheap, easy, lightweight, and yeah, disposable, which is why it's ubiquitous. Everything is wrapped in plastic and it makes a mess of garbage but we're not going to stop using it because we love it so much.

    I think the question we should be asking is how to properly dispose of it.
  • Apr 12 2011: I dont know the answer, but look at my own behavior and question why is it everything I buy from cereal box's to milk carry such an expensive consequence. The weekly amount of garbage is overwhelming. How can we move from cartons to dispensing stations. Can we realistically bring back the milk man with glass bottles. How can we look at consumption differently?
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    Apr 11 2011: I re-use plastic grocery bags everywhere I can. I insert my hand in a bag and use it as I would a rubber glove, to do every dirty job. I clean the detritus out of the sink drain; Instead of using a paintbrush for small jobs, I hold a rag with a plastic bag, then dispose of both. Tarring the roof makes use of a few bags. Spent oil filters are tripple wrapped in plastic bags. I use a used bag to line small garbage pails used in the bathroom and other rooms. Actually I purchased small plastic garbage pails sized to fit the grocery bags. It would be nice if a large retailer like Walmart would advertise small garbage pails that are sized to fit the used bags.

    I also use the a Kleenex rather than large paper towels for most kitchen spills but that's another topic.
  • Apr 11 2011: An important topic and one the world's brainpower should be able to solve at some level, in short order. Also, we've plugged this into GiG as a challenge. GiG is the virtual stock market for the emerging global ideas economy, wrapped in game features. How do you rate as Influencer, Socialite, Investor, Ambassador? Exclusively on Facebook: facebook.com/playGiG. Check us out and play this imporant challenge inspired by Dianna.
  • Apr 10 2011: Equivalent-cost alternative packaging material with properties that you find more acceptable.
    More effective comprehensive recycling programs.
    Severing the transportation chain that results in plastic in the ocean.
    Mandating a reduction/elimination of the toxins found in disposables that could leach into the environment.
  • Apr 7 2011: I don't actually think that the use of disposable plastics itself is the problem, but the type of plastic that is used. Most plastic products that are being used in the world today are Petroleum based plastics. However in recent years a small trend has emerged that is moving away from Petroleum based plastics and trying to find an alternative. Today we have several biodegradable plastics which are made from Polyanhydrides, aliphatic polyesters, Cellulose esters, Polyvinyl alcohol, different starch derivatives or even Petroleum-based plastics with additives.
    This of course does not mean that the consumer can now just throw away their products wherever they want to, they still have to be properly processed, but it leaves a much smaller carbon-footprint (up to 45% less).
    Of course there are other problems that have to be met. Biodegradable plastics need more energy for production and also BPs which come from renewable resources will compete with food production. I think for US production of plastics to be meet it's current demand it would need about 1.6 square meters per kilogram produced.

    So obviously there are many obstacles to overcome, but plastic has become such an important part of modern life that we can not move away from the usage of plastic but we have to find a way to make it ecologically sustainable.
  • Apr 6 2011: Well, there are two ends that need to make some changes. One of those ends is in our heads- We need to decide not to use certain products as they are intended by the companies who make them. And that is the other end. Companies need to be held responsible by the people who use their services and products to act responsibly.

    All of this requires real people, us, to come to a different understanding of how this world works. That includes the decisions we make in our work place, and what role we play there- examine the ramifications of the actions you yourself take to uphold the company and what impact it has, and also the choices we make in our homes.
    • Apr 12 2011: I agree, education of consumers and ammending the law to hold companies more responsible are the most important.
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    Apr 6 2011: This may sound odd or pie in the sky, but wouldn't it be great if the new 3D printers could use this sort of packaging as the raw materials of onsite construction of objects we need or want in our homes?