Earth Day 2018 Was About Plastics Pollution—But Greens Missed Target

Biodegradable Plastic Articlei

Guest essay By Steve Goreham

April 22 was designated by the Earth Day Network as Earth Day 2018. This year’s Earth Day was dedicated to ending global plastic pollution. While efforts to reduce plastic pollution are needed, the campaign missed the mark by emphasizing measures to eliminate the use of plastics.

Earth Day Network’s “Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit” identifies important problems such as litter and accumulating plastic in the ocean. It proposes effective measures to reduce plastic pollution such as local beach clean-up and recycling. But then the primer goes overboard, promoting radical proposals such as “whenever possible, refuse plastic” and “living a plastic-free life.”

Plastics are essential to modern society. We fabricate food containers, boat paddles, shoes, pipes, toys, smart phones, and thousands of other goods from plastic. Plastic is integral to medical services, used in heart valves, artificial joints, and catheters. Every day, society consumes approximately 450 million plastic bottles and 2.7 billion plastic bags worldwide.

From an objective point of view, plastics are a miracle material. Plastics are composed of long synthetic molecules of carbon and hydrogen, derived from petrochemicals, with amazing chemical properties. Plastics are moldable, impervious to water, inert in normal room-temperature conditions, light weight and strong, able to deform without breaking, and inexpensive.

But the valuable characteristics of plastic, a low-cost non-reactive material with wide applicability, produce both misguided and justified fears about environmental impacts. The Earth Day campaign raised concerns about the volume of plastics going to landfills, about fossil fuel feedstock for plastic, and about “leakage” of plastic into the environment. The landfill and fossil fuel concerns are misguided, but the concern about plastic accumulation in the environment is valid.

Environmentalists decry landfill plastic, but modern landfills are designed to accept waste with a minimum of environmental impact. Landfills in developed nations use a waterproof lining to prevent leaching of chemicals into underground water aquifers. Plastic and other garbage is crushed each day and covered with soil to reduce smell and litter and to prevent the growth of vermin and insect populations.

Nor are we running out of landfill space, except in local situations or in small nations. It has been estimated that, at current throwaway rates, all US municipal waste for the next 1,000 years could fit in a landfill 300 feet tall and 30 miles on a side. Compaction could reduce this volume by more than half.

In addition, the waste recovered by recycling, composting, and combustion is rising faster than waste is being generated. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of US waste annually deposited into landfills peaked in 1990 and has been slowly declining for more than 20 years. Plastic going into landfills is a minor issue.US Waste Disposal Graph Article

Most plastic comes from oil or natural gas refining, therefore a target in the ongoing war on hydrocarbons. The Earth Policy Institute states, “Manufacturing of the nearly 28 billion plastic bottles used each year to package water in the United States alone requires the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil.”

This sounds alarming, but it’s mistaken. Plastic is a by-product of refining waste. Only about four percent of the world’s oil is used to produce plastic, with only about one percent used for bottles. If plastic bottle production were halted, the volume of petroleum used in refining would hardly change.


A valid concern, however, is the accumulation of plastic in the environment, particularly the oceans. Dr. Jenna Jambeck at the University of Georgia estimated that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste entered the world’s oceans in 2010, or about 1.7 to 4.6 percent of total plastic production. These waste numbers are rising with increasing production.

Some scientists warn of a growing Pacific Ocean garbage patch, a huge area of ocean current whirlpool north of Hawaii, where plastic is said to be accumulating. Contrary to some reports, an observer gazing at this ocean area does not see floating plastic waste. But scientists do measure a growing concentration of tiny plastic particles. Sea birds, which mistake plastic for food, have been found with plastic fragments in their stomachs.

The environmental movement proposes that we cleanse our daily lives of plastic, and well-meaning nations and communities have responded. France enacted a ban on all plastic dishware to go into effect in 2020. Hundreds of cities have banned plastic straws and plastic bags.

But banning plastic straws in Seattle or Fort Myers will not do much to solve the problem. Only about two percent of the plastic that ends up in the ocean originates in Europe and the US, where waste disposal is well-controlled. An estimated 82 percent originates in Asia and another 16 percent from the rest of the world.

Ultimately, the best solution may be plastics engineered to biodegrade in the environment over a short period of time. Many companies now offer biodegradable plastics for single-use applications, usually at a cost premium over common plastics. Unfortunately, green groups often oppose biodegradable plastics over fears of methane or carbon dioxide emissions.

Environmental advocates push for lifestyle changes and plastic bans, but ignore practical biodegradable solutions. Let’s recycle and clean up our beaches, but avoid feel-good plastic-banning campaigns.

Originally published in The Daily Caller, republished here at the request of the author. Steve Goreham is a speaker on the environment, business, and public policy and author of the book Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development.


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Joel Snider

I wonder if ‘plastic pollution’ could be alleviated by slobs picking up after themselves?

Mark from the Midwest

If slobs would pick up after themselves would they be slobs?
If everyone would clean up after themselves, become more efficient, compost, recycle, etc., my guess is we could cut the environmental impact of everything by a third. My wife and I take a 32 gallon bag of trash to the landfill every six weeks, other than that we compost and recycle everything, and even with a protracted and cold winter we will use less than 700 gallons of propane to heat, heat water, and cook over the last year. It’s not that difficult a thing to do, it saves us a few bucks, and none of it requires over-bearing government.


On the scale of things, it’s kind of pointless when we Climate Pope Gore living in a 10,000 sf mansion that has an annual electricity usage of 10 average homes in America. Throw in his world-wide jet-setting lifestyle (to climate conferences no less) and 2 vacation homes and his climate virtue is simply vacuous words for the little people (you and me) to follow.


Unfortunately, even if all of the world picked up after itself most of them still wouldn’t have any place to put their trash. They are left to make ad hoc dumps with no control environmental or otherwise, where the waste rarely remains for long before the environment strews it about.

“Only about two percent of the plastic that ends up in the ocean originates in Europe and the US, where waste disposal is well-controlled. An estimated 82 percent originates in Asia and another 16 percent from the rest of the world.”
See, it matters not a bit if every slob in the USA and the UK became a perfect neatnick overnight – it is the ingrained habits of billions of uber-slobs that DOES matter, and until those countries decide to enact waste management, their 98 percent share of pollution will only increase…

“Dr. Jenna Jambeck at the University of Georgia estimated that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste entered the world’s oceans in 2010, or about 1.7 to 4.6 percent of total plastic production. These waste numbers are rising with increasing production.
Some scientists warn of a growing Pacific Ocean garbage patch, a huge area of ocean current whirlpool north of Hawaii, where plastic is said to be accumulating.”

Just more alarmism without validity.
Searches have been conducted looking for the plastic gyro; and have failed to locate it.
Plastic degrade into particles, little different than weathered rock. Making little difference to plants, animals or farming.


Mark from the Midwest
“none of it requires over-bearing government”
Any government tax on the propane?

Michael Jankowski

“…Plastic degrade into particles, little different than weathered rock. Making little difference to plants, animals or farming…”
Actually, aside from the stories of wildlife getting caught in plastic rings and whatnot, degrading into particles is where there’s a problem. That’s where plastics enter the ecosystem (and such plastic can apparently be transported by wind to otherwise unpolluted locations). Plastics are much different physically and chemically than weathered rock.
I can’t speak for plants, but…
It does make a difference to animals. They wouldn’t normally ingest plastic otherwise but are subjected to it (and any toxins it has absorbed along the way) in drinking water and possibly in bioaccumulation when eating other animals.
It does make a difference in farming. Small plastic particles are not captured in conventional wastewater reclamation facilities, so they’re becoming prevalent in irrigation water and fertilizer.
And it is becoming more-and-more prevalent in the drinking water humans use. Now maybe it doesn’t have the potentially immediate and devastating effects of contaminants like lead or arsenic, but it is a concern.

Mike Rossander

Citation please, Michael Jankowski. As noted in the article above, plastics are almost entirely inert. Unless you are concerned about the physical accumulation of plastic granules in the gut, there’s no obvious way for the vast majority of plastics to bioaccumulate in any animal (or plant) system. (There are a few types of plastic with chemical structures similar to animal hormones – those few might cause problems. But the fix there is to change the plastic type, not to attempt to ban all plastics.)
That said, I will agree that there is one big difference between degrated plastic particles and weathered rock. Rock is heavier than water. Even finely ground silt will eventually settle out. Most plastics are much closer to the density of water. Thus, they can’t be easily separated from water with just settling tanks. Even if they are inert, I’d rather not have grit in my drinking water.


Time to put the jailbirds to work.


Contratulations to the WUWT team for getting to 350,000,000 views. Outstanding!


From the article, 82% of the waste originates in Asia. If individual “slobs” are responsible for most of the waste (as opposed to authorities dumping civic waste at sea or corporate entities) then the education needs to be concentrated there. Westerners making a hullabaloo in the Western mainstream media and enacting legislation in their own countries is not going to make a significant impact on the totality of the problem. However, it will reinforce the belief from environmentalists that they are “saving the planet”.


That would require extremely virtuous virtue signalers.


Make disposable utensils out of wood.
How many additional trees would need to be harvested every year?

Steve Keohane

Bamboo flatware is already available.


Good point about that bamboo.
That stuff also makes great flooring and other things.
Have used bamboo and “monkey pod” and other tropical wood utensils plus bowls and trays since my VietNam and Thiland tours long ago.
Glad to see the stats on who tosses the most plastic stuff into the ocean.
Now we need a similar graph of the amount of paper/wood products in the landfill. My last look showed more paper products by weight and volume than plastic by far.
Gums sends…

Pop Piasa

Perfect. One of the most invasive plants I’ve seen and grows faster than the weeds around it. Maybe they could pelletize it and burn it instead of wood too.


I have a wonderful bamboo cutting board and lots of bamboo utensils and really like using them. They are now making fabrics from bamboo. Bamboo flooring is very attractive. I have a small grove of GiantTimber Bamboo with some Green Bamboo mixed in; both of these are very useful and I have used them to replace rails in the fence. Livestock loves munching on the leaves too when they get the chance. These are tillering species and need to be kept in bounds, so one of our favorite tasks in spring is kicking over the shoots that are trying to colonize beyond their allotted place. The shoots are good to eat also….


I forgot to mention that it great fun in the burn piles; it explodes with loud pops. I don’t see why it could not be pelleted for use in pellet stoves.

Mike McMillan

The less expensive restaurants in Japan are going over from bamboo to cheap wood chopsticks from China. Splinters?
My own chopsticks are ivory.


Microeconomics 101.
The supply of bamboo flatware is available for purchase because it is more expensive than plastic, but because some folks prefer it, there is a profit to be made by supplying it.
Now increase the demand 10-fold, and see what happens.
Initially, the price will skyrocket.
Then growers will cut down more rain forest to plant more bamboo to meet the demand. It makes them money to do so.
The loss of that rain forest for bamboo production does not come without an environmental cost to the native rain forests of SE Asia.

Bob Burban

“Make disposable utensils out of wood.” But both wood and plastics are composed primarily of elemental carbon and hydrogen, the only difference being ratios and molecular arrangement.


Eat the shoots, hot blanch, then use in curries Thai and Chinese recipes.


Common sense is uncommon and truth is ignored by the greens.

R Shearer

Actually wood is 50% or so oxygen on a mass basis.


They do not realize that there is no Trashberg or Garbage Patch of plastic in the Pacific. Trawls for plastic every two years have shown that the haul is going down asymptotically and longer trawls are needed to get a sample of plastic that can be analyzed. In addition, plastics on shore lines are appearing in smaller and smaller sizes, which means that they are indeed breaking down.
It should be pointed out that modern surgery could not be performed without plastics. Syringes would have to be glass and metal.
Do they also realize that clothing would be back to silk, cotton, wool, and hemp/burlap? All synthetics gone, no nylon hosers, sports attire, fancy sneakers, sports helmets, most car upholstery, living room furniture, and all but wooden and metal boats.


And, the tiny particles of plastic are not a hazard to sea birds as theory would pass right through them. It’s the larger pieces that are a hazard. So, the good news is that plastic does break down. In addition, bacteria and fungi know a good carbon source when they find one and eventually find a way to eat it. That’s how nature works.
The fear of bisphenol A is interesting because the EU, which is the pickiest about chemicals, has found that many organisms, including humans and mammals can metabolize bisphenol A. But, since the environmentalists use panic as their first goto reaction to most things, they assume it must be terribly bad.


Millions of women would revolt if synthetics were outlawed, demanding spandex be pardoned and production be continued. Underestimate the love of and dependence on control-top pantyhose/swimwear/underwear and stretch fabrics at your own peril.
You can pry our Spanx from our cold dead torsos.


No hot lingerie or skimpy bikinis …
This must not stand!
” … Dr. Jenna Jambeck at the University of Georgia estimated that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste entered the world’s oceans in 2010 … ”
4.8 to 12.7
For real Jen? The Min guesstimate is 2.64 times smaller than the Max guesstimate? Who’s she trying to kid.

Jeff Alberts

No girls in yoga pants?? Oh the Spandexity!!


Much of the worlds trash collection is non functional or haphazard. Banning plastic straws in a country which already process almost all of its municipal waste and sequesters it in landfills will not have any measurable effect across the world.
Virtue signaling in Europe won’t suddenly cause municipal waste collection in central America or Africa.

Pop Piasa

Burning wastes cleanly to produce electricity should be the top priority of ecology today. Why spend money to dump it when it can be a source of power? Surely it’s no more expensive to produce than renewables, and the supply of fuel is guaranteed to reflect the affluence of the region. The better the third world has it, the more waste they can burn to make cheap power.
All that is required is for the CO2 demonization to stop.

Phil Rae

Pop Piasa
Correct! Plastic is a great fuel – it’s just solid hydrocarbon – and can be burned efficiently and cleanly to produce lots of energy. Recycling it to produce inferior-quality material or burying it in a landfill doesn’t make any sense at all. Burn it properly and reap the benefit of a convenient high-energy fuel source!


In Peruvian cities much of the trash is simply thrown in the streets.
Feral dogs love it.
You gotta see Cusco, the non-tourist part. Shocking.
Just blame it on Trump & the gringos as usual.

Tell that to the virtue signallers!
Global warming as a reason to “leave oil/gas/coal in the ground” is starting to look a bit shaky. Time to move on to something else. For 2018 (and as long as it lasts) it’s plastics! And thereafter anything else they can fund that will allow the eco-actvists to lie about CO2.
WXcycles has spotted the obvious flaw. If your best estimate is 8.7+/-3.9 your research is bordering on the meaningless.


How about those sinful “single-use” plastic bags outlawed in California, and used throughout the rest of the world? (We never used such bags only once.)

Jim Whelan

Jim, If you live in California you know we still have single use plastic bags. It’s just that now they are thicker (so they are “reusable”, but most are trashed) and cost ten cents each.

J Mac

The ‘Greens’ here in the Puget Sound area are entirely dependent on plastics and synthetics to support their ‘kayaktivism’ against ‘big oil’. They drive to their protests in their ‘big oil’ manufactured and powered cars. They put on their oil-sourced synthetic wind and rain proof clothes, climb into their oil-sourced plastic kayaks, pick up their oil-sourced plastic paddles and head out to ‘protest’ any ‘big oil’ support ships that pull into harbor here. When confronted with his blatant hypocrisies, one of the outspoken paddle-pushers declared he didn’t give a damn about the hypocrisy because he was going to use plastics and any thing else needed to ‘end big oil’.

Lee L

Oh now please …. you couldn’t actually expect these guys to go out and slaughter some seals to make their sealskin kayaks could you? Be realistic. (wink)


Accurate shot, Lee, definitely the ten ring. And then remember that petroleum products “SAVED THE WHALES!!!!”
Gums …


Canoes from hemp is the answer.


They’re too busy smokin’ that hemp.

Jeff Alberts

Spot on J Mac. Their responses also include “We don’t have a choice.” Well, they DO have a choice, but it requires hard work. Can’t do that AND hang out at Starbucks all day blogging about how virtuous you are.

Bruce Cobb

Amazing, innit? The organizers of Earth Day have apparently decided that the Earth’s existence is no longer “threatened” by CO2. I guess they’ve seen the writing on the wall. Maybe they even sneak a peak at WUWT now and then. Progress! And if they go a bit overboard on the plastic bit, well, par for the course. Easily straightened out.

Non Nomen

I guess they’ve seen the writing on the wall.

I doubt they can read at all.

Ultimately, the best solution may be plastics engineered to biodegrade
No, the best solution would be to task the problem contributors (Asia, etc) to raise their standards for waste disposal to those of Europe, US and Canada.


The tragedy is that using just a small proportion of the funds wasted due to climate change scaremongering would solve this problem. Facilities such as a modern landfill or a waste to energy incineration plant, plus education on waste minimization would largely fix this.

Pop Piasa

That, and for our young people to care enough to save that McDonalds trash (or even that stinky disposable diaper) for the rubbish container at the next petrol station or rest stop instead of just chucking it out the window of their automobiles. Trashing the place while signalling virtue is just a sign of hypocrisy.


A few months ago, I was stopped at a red light and saw the driver of a car ahead of me open his door and very deliberately place a plastic water bottle on the road. I was very tempted to put my car in park, go over, bang on his window, and chuck the bottle back in his car.
When I passed him after the light changed, I noticed that his appearance indicated an ancestral origin in a south Asian country that is not known for being great about waste disposal. For a second I wondered if perhaps he was foreign and/or his action was due to cultural indifference, but then I realized that either way, there is no way he did not know that was not appropriate. (If you are wealthy enough to fly halfway across the world, you are educated enough to know better.)
If you are going to visit or live in a developed country, act like a developed person and dispose of your trash properly! That goes for everyone! Heck, regardless of where you live or visit, dispose of your trash properly.


@ KRM,
The point is not to solve the fake ‘problems’, the point is to make noise and demand spending on useless programs, designed to be ineffective, change nothing, so they can keep hyping the non-crisis, and keep weeping for more misallocated ‘investment’ in saving the planet.


The plastic bottle in the road is a bump and slide hazard and he should be corrected.


A lot of this latest ant-plastic craze is purely political and caused by China banning imports of plastic waste products from Western countries, thus changing its standards. This is why the duffus British PM is now waffling about evil cotton buds and the national security implications of plastic shopping bags, run-amok, etc.
The loonie greenies sniff an opportunity here for public money, so are going all out to demonise plastic and insist on bans, which is yet more stupid over reach and absurd fear-campaigning in the public media usual suspects, to get something less, and to waste everyone’s time again via clagging up public debate with more fear BS and sciencey drivel.


Most of this data regarding plastics in the ocean is still just a computer model deducing shortfalls in recycled waste collected and presuming it ended up in oceans.
I presume some people like myself recycle stuff in the old fashioned way, using it in the form it came in without the need to grind it up, soak it in solvents, melt and reform the stuff .. as they make perfectly usable containers just as they are. I’ve even been known to cut up plastics and heated, vacuum form them into other shapes. Point being stuff sent out – stuff reclaimed = plastic in oceans is a bit of a dud formula

Pop Piasa

I have plastic buckets 20 years old. They are no more brittle than some of the 5 year old or newer buckets that I have aquired. Plastic is observably less durable these days. I wonder if the plastic substitutes for wood decking products will degrade as fast from UV, since they are recycled modern plastics.

Non Nomen

The manufacturers add plasticizers to their product. If they choose the right ones, plastic products can live for a whole lifetime. If not: bad luck, aka obsolescence.


“Plastic is observably less durable these days”. I recently had a 5-gallon commercial water bottle break in half. Five gallons of wine make a terrible mess.

R. Shearer

There are a variety of additives, such as UV light stabilizers, anti-oxidants (I like Irganox), in addition to plasticizers. Chinese plastics are often inferior.

Ian Johnson

Wind turbine blades are plastic, but I don’t see greens whinging about it. Are the blades a politically correct plastic?


Ha! Good point! Of course, wind turbine blades are composed of non-recyclable materials.


Most likely from a “gasp” high tensile strength carbon pollution material.

Non Nomen

Mainly made of fiber glass or carbon fiber. Not easy to handle in production and the components are hazardous to health. “Big Oil” produced…

Ian Macdonald

The turbine blades are made of epoxy or polyester resin, reinforced with glassfibre. This is actually worse than plastic from an environmental point of view, since it cannot be melted or reformed. Also, curved shapes are hard to repurpose, whereas s/h flat glassfibre panels in good condition are resaleable items.
The issue here isn’t so much the glass filler as that epoxy is strictly speaking a thermoset resin, not a plastic.Unlike true plastics it cannot be melted once set. Burning it releases toxic fumes. It is thus one of the harder materials to dispose of responsibly, and you wonder about its use in green energy products.


This campaign has already had ludicrous results, such as persuading McDonalds to switch entirely from foam-plastic containers which could be recycled to cardboard which cannot (or at least it is not allowed in the US, probably due to overblown sanitary concern).
This illustrates the huge part the Greens have played in the now-much-broader problem that mob protests (and thus the puppet masters who pay to organize them) now have much more political clout than science.
Of course the “science community” also bears a lot of the blame since it has allowed those same puppet masters to get control of its own institutions. It will have to purge itself before it can begin to earn back the respect it has thrown away.


“to cardboard which cannot (or at least it is not allowed in the US, probably due to overblown sanitary concern).”
I have heard that oiled paper or cardboard should not be recycled as the oil creates problems in the recycling process. Specifically, pizza cartons should be discarded rather than recycled if they are stained with any oils. Hamburger, sausage, bacon, fried chicken or fish, etc., much of McD’s sandwich menu would qualify as spoilers of their cardboard packaging.

Pop Piasa

Keep this old advice in mind…

Pop Piasa

Apologies to Bruce Cobb below. I should have known somebody would beat me to it.

Gary Pearse

Even “non biodegradable” plastic degrades even in landfill and there are microbes that love the stuff in the sea. Yeah, don’t throw your garbage in the sea and recycling is a good idea. Apparently a lot of the plastic in the sea comes from small countries seaside city garbage dumps that during storms and flooding get eroded by rivers out to sea. It may even be a small countries way of recycling their limited landfill sites.

Also of note is that “non-biodegradable” plastic IS degraded by UV light. Set some Polyethylene plastic containers out on the patio in the sun, then go away a couple of years ( I got suddenly pulled to a contract on the other side of the continent). When you come back, that tough resilient thing will fracture into bits and dust when you try to pick it up. That is WHY the “Pacific garbage patch” is made of tiny dust like particles (some of it theoretical). Then those bits do slowly oxidize and return to nature.
The notion that plastic is forever is daft and broken.
That said, yes, by all means, keep your trash out of the ocean, get the Asians to clean up their act, and find ways to melt and reuse as plastic all that plastic “waste”. Any that’s not good enough quality to reform and reuse, is basically still “solid gasoline”. It burns nicely and can be mixed with other solid fuels in burners running on things like coal, wood, and trash. I’ve used plastic bottles to start fires in my fireplace and it works very well. Just put a couple over a bit of kindling to get it started, then logs, then another one or two on top to melt and drip into the stack as it gets going and light it all nicely.
BTW, plastic can be made from ANY carbon source and has been. It can be made (and has been made) from coal, oil, natural gas (most common in the USA now), trees, garbage, and corn. There is ZERO need to save oil for “petro”chemicals. They are more accurately called carbon polymer chemicals.

Pop Piasa

“The notion that plastic is forever is daft and broken.”
Best bumper sticker of the year, so far.

Ernest Bush

And how do you get Asia to clean up it’s act? Deluded Globalism favors them even in the short term. We so-called whites are millions. Asia is billions. China is building coal-fired electric plants like crazy. They will be producing more plastic for in-country consumption over time and they are not known for their green initiatives. Some of their appetite will be for U.S. coal. Japan is switching to coal for obvious reasons.
The Asians see green energy as a political ploy. In that, they live in Realville, not in a green delusional world of Western nations Then there is India. Good luck .


I was in Naples a few years ago and noticed that the harbor was being kept clean by a floating skimmer.
Almost like an aquatic Zamboni. The thing would cruise around and scour all the floating nasties off the surface. Judging from the results, it was a good idea. They still fish and harvest shellfish right in the harbor.


It’s not the floating trash that makes fish and shellfish inedible. It’s the contaminants in the water. The biggest being rain water runoff, oils, detergents, fertilizer, animal poop and so on.


Plastics are moldable, impervious to water

Generally true, BUT:
PVA plastic, Poly Vinyl Alcohol. It is water soluble.
It has its uses, particularly in hospitals. Patient laundry is gathered and bagged in PVA. Then the laundry room staff throw the whole thing into a washing machine, avoiding exposure to possibly contaminated items.
It would be nice to make the greenies buy their boutique bottled water in PVA bottles. Fill the bottle in the store at the time of purchase, and the bottle disappears before they get home. It’s Environmental.

Pop Piasa

Those of us who live rurally have septic systems and can benefit greatly from digester organisms packaged in PVA packets to flush down our toilets once in a while. I use “Flush It septic energizer” which contains 8 strains of bacteria to eliminate oils, soaps and other difficult wastes. No handling the bugs with PVA bags.

Ian Macdonald

..the bottle disappears before they get home.
Nealy spilled my coffee over that one. 😉
I can just imagine the look of consternation on the typical greenie’s face.

Jim Whelan

Tide Pods???

Good essay. Once again showing that a few facts can go a long way against unreasonable ‘watermellon’ hysteria.

Lee L

Really, it might be as simple as changing what we call landfills. Perhaps each one should be renamed as a MINE which is what it will probably be a few generations hence.
MINES are places where valuable elements and compounds exist in larger concentration than most other places and that are situated such that these valuable things can be transported.
A landfill by any other name would smell as sweet.


How about these?
Sequestration Zones, or Material Repositories:
“No materials may be removed from this site without governmental approval.”
That way the credulous could be convinced we are creating deposits for for our grandchildren.


One visit to southeast asia will convince anyone that the USA has very little to do with plastic pollution in oceans.

Pop Piasa

“Berry of Lychee never fall far from tree”


Are they against plastic per se, or is this a smokescreen to go after oil, from which most plastic is made?
The NDP government of British Columbia relies on the Green party to support them in a minority government. They are against the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline because they want to prevent Alberta crude from making it to tidewater. That reason won’t fly because the federal government approved the pipeline. The excuse they are using is that they are worried about oil spills. That stands a chance of being heard by a court and at least delaying the project forever.
The reason the BC government is opposing the pipeline and what they say is the reason are different. I wonder if that’s also the case with the people opposing plastics.


They are going after oil, Commie. Clear as mud.
The oppo in the U.S. vs the pipeline was anti-oil and not oil spills that might soak a few gophers.
The CAGW folks and anti-nuke folks have succeeded far beyond their expectations or my own. Just the mention of the word “nuclear” makes many folks cringe. Don’t waste your time telling them they got more radiation from their last visit to the dentist than anyone within miles of Three Mile Island.
Gums …


My dentist drapes a lead apron and a neck band before taking x-rays. A better corollary would be comparing
TMI to a cross-country flight. And TMI was a human failure, not a mechanical one.

John F. Hultquist

Note the opening of this essay:
April 22 was designated by the Earth Day Network as Earth Day 2018. This year’s Earth Day was dedicated to ending global plastic pollution.
Several years ago (7 +/- 3) I read that activists “networks” discuss and agree on the coming year’s issue.
Magazine editors ask for articles for their cover stories, and many other planning steps begin so that when the new season rolls around citizens of the developed countries are bombarded with photos, articles, and conferences about the selected “gloom & doom” thing.
A few years ago magazines seemed to show Pandas, another year Polar Bears, …, and now “plastic pollution.”
The small town near us has instituted a nickel fee for the plastic bags used at grocery store check out.
Those folks that get “food assist” coupons can ask for an exemption and will be given a paper bag, but not charged for it.
We use cardboard boxes, with handles. Works great.
Also, and this we find funny, we get a nickel off our bill for using the box.
All of this is about as useful as the California Proposition 65 Warning that came attached to the waterproof hiking boots I recently bought.
Do they think I am going to make boot-soup? [ref: ‘Stone Soup’]

Roy Denio

A bit off topic, but in-line with Earth-day (old but good article)
Whatever Happened to Fuel Cells?


We are beginning to see fuel-cell powered cars here in Southern California. Not a lot, but, then there weren’t a lot of Prii at first, either.

geologist down the pub

Never forget that the landfills of today are the mines of tomorrow. We have the necessary technology, all we need are the right economic conditions.


Landfills of yesterday are mines of TODAY.
I’d buy stock in that company!

City requires stores to end using plastic bags. As a result folks must now go out and buy plastic bags to hold their garbage. End result flimsy 1 use plastic bags are replaced by hefty garbage bags and plastic waste increases.
City bans plastic bags and requires everyone to use paper bags. Trees cut down by the millions. City responds by requiring composting and hands out plastic composers. Million upon millions of flies breed in composters and a million plastic composters end up in the landfill.
end result flimsy plastic bags replaced by substantial plastic composers in landfills at great cost to taxpayers. City council repots great success with program.

Pop Piasa

Alternate scenario: City bans plastic and paper grocery bags and requires reusable grocery bags available at the store ($3 ea) for those who didn’t happen to bring any with them. Money goes to municipality and Chinese manufacturer of very ornate bags containing green slogans. Bags usually last 2 or 3 trips to the store.


aus does that- theyre$1 ea or more made from ??plastic of some different sort..after a while especially if they see sunshine they disintegrate
which sounds ok
the powder gets all over you and is easily inhaled and is a real irritant to the eyes;-/
microplastic dust all over the place, not sure how thats a good thing?

Jeff Alberts

“Bags usually last 2 or 3 trips to the store.”
Hmm, my re-usable bags, many costing only $1, have lasted for years.


And here in crazy California, bags at the checkout counter cost 10 cents, and are a heavy-duty plastic that last many more than 2-3 uses. The funny part of this is that we, the people, voted to ban single-sue bags and require the 10-cent heavier-duty ones. Then some bright light figured out that the new bags didn’t cost the store 10 cents more than the old bags, and those veil capitalists would be making money on the change, so we passed an initiative to send the 10 cents to the state. *That makes it a tax, where I come from.) The stores now have to pay more for the new bags than the old bags, and don’t get even the difference in cost. The state pays nothing for the new bags, and gets the entire fee.


I really should proof-read before hitting “post”. “sue” = “use” and “veil” = “evil”. Can one have dyslexic fingers?


Blame the keyboard.

Leo Smith

I have around 6 store branded hessian bags that are still going strong after 5 years
recently I am taking a huge plastic bin to the supermarket, and I fill that instead

Pop Piasa

Leo, I just saw a commercial on US television for a collapsible cooler made of closed cell insulating boards. Looks great for grocery trips. Hopefully they’re marketing it across the pond too.


How often do you wash the bags?


To RETIRED Engineer Jim :
No………..not dyslexic fingers Jim !
The CLUE is in the word RETIRED I think !
It happens to ME all the time !


Land fill and Other Disposal-Translated:
Dumped into the ocean and tossed onto the side of the road.
THESE is a REAL environmental problems.
Elevate the level on these-drown out the ‘noise’ on the other.

Bruce Cobb

One word: “Plastics”.

How right he was.


Landfills in developed nations use a waterproof lining
try making those w/o plastic and oil industries…

Ernest Bush

Landfill operators also like plastic bags for the same reason they use plastic liners. It helps stabilize things while nature goes to work.

Don’t the green snowflakes miss the mark on pretty much everything?


As with most Greenie “Problems”, give them an acceptable Solution (i.e. Biodegradable Plastics) and they completely reject the Solution. Proving once again, that the Green Movement is about “big Oil”, ‘CO2″, and other Political initiatives and NOT about the supposed “environmental” Complaint de jure!


They want to destroy the petrochemical industry.


Hi Rob : ” They want to destroy the petrochemical industry” you say !
“THEY” want to DESTROY ALL INDUSTRY ……especially in Capitalist WESTERN ECONOMIES.
If they can destroy all our industries ( THOSE THAT “WE” HAVEN’T ALREADY DESTROYED
OR EXPORTED TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES ……like China ! ) “THEY” have effectively destroyed “US”.
The places where CAPITALISM and FREE-ENTERPRISE FLOURISH are the ONLY places on EARTH
with a decent standard of living:,Education ( though THAT is increasingly becoming propaganda ! ) ,
Democracy , Free-Speech , the ability to PRACTISE any Religion ( or NOT practise any Religion ) ,
the ability to CHOOSE jobs and the ability to become PERSONALLY WEALTHY and PERSONALLY
OWN property , literally “the pursuit of happiness ” ARE ALL CONFINED TO WESTERNISED
ABLE TO AFFORD IT ! However , it has become ‘weaponised’ against us now !
the right to exist EVEN THOUGH “THEY” are trying VERY hard TO DESTROY US !
The ONLY WAY to counter their activities LAWFULLY is the VOTE FOR CONSERVATIVE
operate. “THEIR” AIM is a Socialist Utopia and UNTIL THEY DESTROY OUR SOCIETY
they will not be able to establish it !
Cambodia ect….. ad infinitum ) OF DISASTROUS SOCIALISM does NOT deter them.
IDEOLOGY is NOT necessarily driven by common sense and misplaced altruism has
killed millions. “UTOPIA” is still the goal and “THEY” are relentless…..and in that sense
you have to admire their determination !
FOR EXAMPLE: Why hasn’t the MEDIA championed the EXTRACTION OF OIL FROM
TAR SANDS as “Fantastically successful environmental remediation…….forest and
wildlife now flourish where only deadly swamps existed previously ! ”
whereas they condemned a relatively MINOR OIL SPILL ( by comparison )
in the GULF OF MEXICO when an oil-well blew-out. ????????
INDUSTRIES AND OUR FREEDOMS , get off our individual butts , AND

Ernest Bush

What they want is to deny cheap energy to the masses. It makes us independent and not likely to need anything at all from them. They have seen to it that we don’t have nuclear reactors. They did not plan on the shale oil revolution. Today gasoline locally is $2.65 a gallon. When I was a teenager in the late 50’s, gas in Texas was under 50 cents. Given inflation it is cheaper today with all the gas taxes than it was then. The problem is wages have not kept up with inflation.

Most plastics entering and floating in the oceans are being consumed by microbes — this has been known for years but is seldom mentioned — similar to the way that oil spill eating microbes are omitted from stories about oil spills. Oceanic plastics naturally breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces and eventually are entirely consumed by microbes….I have written about this several times here at WUWT.
That said, plastics should be recycled wherever possible — municipalities and local governments should insist and see that it is actually done.
The ubiquitous one-use plastic shopping bags should be required to be made of environmentally degradable materials that break down rapidly after exposure to sun and water. Their actual intended lifespan in use is about six hours — long enough to get the groceries home. Once they hit the trash stream or the environment, they should disintegrate within a week or so.
All of us should take care with our trash — this is a Kindergarten Rule — pick up after yourself — Don’t Leave a Mess for Others.
Using foreign aid funds to help poorer nations take out the trash will improve the plastic pollution problem and improve public health in those nations — a Win-Win.

Many grocery store plastic bags ARE immediately recycled into trash bag liners themselves.
Not all certainly, but many millions every day. The improvements in convenience, cleanliness, bug and infection reduction, hygiene, and just plain comfort-of-life are immense.
Unpopular to the enviro’s of course for that very reason: Convenience, ease of use, comfort, and cleanliness are “good things” and therefore “cannot be tolerated” nor made cheaper.


And look at the benefits. Plastic bags now mark most of the barbed wire in the mountain states.

Jeff Alberts

“And look at the benefits. Plastic bags now mark most of the barbed wire in the mountain states.”
I live in a mountain state (WA), and there are lots of areas with barbed wire. Have not seen any bags on them.


Yeah, I find the same thing here in VT.
It seems that the lower elevations get most of the windblown debris.
Roadside debris are mostly in the form of aluminum beer cans, despite a $0.05 deposit.
There are no fast food within a 20 mile radius so we see little foam, except for the occasional Dunkins/Starbucks from the flatlanders.
May have put a grandson through college based on that goldmine…


Reallyskeptical – what state do you live in? I live Northeast of Reno, NV. Lots of wind. don’t see any plastic bags – not a one. Folks here reuse them for trash bags. I would not like to see them disintegrate after a week.
In Orange County, where I lived before, people re-purposed them for doggie doo pickup.
Are you sure you’re not just projecting? A lot of city folk think they know the open wilds of the west, and make all kinds of silly laws that don’t pertain. I can’t help but suspect you’re from the big city, and have never been more than two blocks from a street light.


The BBC writes its own debunk

Grey Lensman ==> Ah….I rocketed through the known universe with the Grey Lensman for many years in my youth…
Thanks for the link to the BBC story — appreciated.


Banning the use of plastic would create many worse problems.
Today, nearly all plumbing piping in residential housing is plastic, replacing the copper, iron, galvanized, lead that was used previously. This reduces the cost and reduces the use of toxic or scarce materials. It reduces the CO2 emitted from welding gas and from the lower weight of transport. It is also faster and easier to install, further reducing cost. Once installed it is much less subject to deterioration or damage from frost. The three common plastics for this application are PEX, ABS, and PVC.
This is just one of the many critical uses of plastic, which have little negative environmental impact.
It is only single-use plastic products that can be a problem.Styrofoam plates and cups easily break down into small pellets, that can actually be a favorable soil amendment but has no place in the ocean. Packaging is a problem every place but the landfill.
Bottles, whether plastic or glass can easily be controlled with a deposit/refund program.


I have started picking up plastic bottles that litterbugs have thrown away and putting them into recycling bins. I also retrieve these bottles fron general waste bins in the street. I get some funny looks but I don’t care.


in enlightened states in aus those containers inc the waxed milk ones earn you 10c each for collection n recycling
south aus does this for decades the roadsides are clean of glass n plastic litter mostly
driving to Victoria i was amazed at the broken bottles of road and roadsides as well as all the plastic waste thrown from cars.
huge difference
poor people travel the roadsides on pushbikes and collect waste to earn money
win win all round


The Greens always miss the mark! Just check out the scene after they’ve had a protest march, it’s always trashed!

Mike Smith

George Carlin figured it out:

Rich Lambert

The packaging material that lasts the longest in the environment is glass. Plastic doesn’t even come close to glass.


There is a beach of colored weathered glass, in Russia.
Glass does sink and is very inert, but the idea of banning plastic is insultingly stupid.
Plastics, cheap energy, indoor plumbing and antibiotics are among the best things we have done.
Greens, in their misanthropic obsessions, seem to hate most if not all if those advances.

Gunga Din

Maybe a bit OT, but I saw a story a couple of days ago about all the plastic trash in the ocean (The Pacific?) being the size of Texas. I’ve only ever seen stories the plastic “islands” in the oceans.
It would seem that if they are really that big a satellite photo or two would be available?

NW sage

Not off topic at all. The so called ‘garbage gyre’ in the mid pacific is fantasy. I’ve seen many pictures purportedly taken from ships traversing the ‘center’ of the area and no trash at all is visible. Oceanographic research can only collect amounts large enough to even test by towing fine seine nets for several hours.
And the ‘horror stories ‘ of small plastic particles [even tough plastics break down to smaller and smaller pieces] so small that “fish eat them” I’ve seen NO research which shows these very small particles cause anything at all when ingested by marine life and, since the plastics involved are quite inert there is not even a theoretical reason for assuming damage of any kind. It goes in one end and comes out the other unchanged – but even smaller.


Quoted from Science mag ; June 2014
Ninety-nine percent of the ocean’s plastic is missing;
Humans produce almost 300 million tons of plastic each year. Most of this ends up in landfills or waste pits, but a 1970s National Academy of Sciences study estimated that 0.1% of all plastic washes into the oceans from land, carried by rivers, floods, or storms, or dumped by maritime vessels.
Some of this material becomes trapped in Arctic ice and some, landing on beaches, can even turn into rocks made of plastic. But the vast majority should still be floating out there in the sea, trapped in midocean gyres—large eddies in the center of oceans, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
To figure out how much refuse is floating in those garbage patches, four ships of the Malaspina expedition, a global research project studying the oceans, fished for plastic across all five major ocean gyres in 2010 and 2011.
After months of trailing fine mesh nets around the world, the vessels came up light—by a lot.
Instead of the millions of tons scientists had expected, the researchers calculated the global load of ocean plastic to be about only 40,000 tons at the most, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We can’t account for 99% of the plastic that we have in the ocean,” says Duarte, the team’s leader.


I love how it apparently did not occur to anyone that the original estimate of “ocean” plastic was wrong.

Gunga, The news media will do a bait and switch. They will describe all the plastic that is in the Pacific with islands of it floating around. Then a picture may be presented. It will not be a picture of an island of plastic in the Pacific, but of a harbor or lake that the local population of a third world country has used a dump. I personally such a pile in Vietnam. Once you get out in the country side of Vietnam you discover that the old practices are still practiced and many garbage dumps are along the shore of a lake. The reason, it is self flushing. Get some hard rain and the river rises and the garbage is flushed away. That practice is ending, but in a lot of third world countries it is still very prevalent.

Pop Piasa

Shucks, guess we’ll have to insulate wire with asbestos or cardboard and hope it stays dry. Wait! here’s a novel idea…


Hey! What have you been doing up in my attic, taking pictures????


A lot of the Greens are just interested in virtue signaling, an exercise in hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
A smaller fraction want the rest of us forced back into a pre-industrial lifestyle, and wish for a 90% die-off.

Alan Tomalty

There are an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the worlds oceans and we all have plastic floating in our bloodstreams. Whether all this is a potential carcinogenic nightmare or not, only medical science could possibly answer. However with their 2 sigma statistical standard, I dont have much confidence of any of their answers.
[?? .mod]


Cancer rates have been falling in the US since 1992. That should be a big clue. Our ability to detect minute particles and small amounts of radiation is primarily due to our ability to detect quantities too small to affect anything.

Ernest Bush

I don’t believe your statistic. It also doesn’t address size of the pieces or location. The green left loves to grab nice round big numbers out of the air at need.


How exactly do we get pieces of plastic in our blood stream?
Is someone sneaking in at night and injecting us?


According to the great state of California, everything is potentially carcinogenic.


One would think that taking petroleum that humans have an insatiable need to convert to CO2 and instead converting it into a permanently inert solid would be every self-identified ‘environmentalist’s fondest dream.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

This study appears to be highly hypothetical in nature. Less than 50% of waste is going to land fills. Also, scientific land fills are very few and thus soil and groundwater contamination is high. Large part is burnt, some goes into rainwater drains, lakes, seawater [coastal cities], etc.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Ernie Friesen

Has anyone ever heard of Plastic2oil . check it out it sounds like a reasonable solution to me.


I like THAT pun !


I don’t know how much more of a recycling thing you can do than to put the contents of the litter box into a thin plastic grocery bag. Cat litter is a specialized clay that absorbs liquids quickly, and plastic will keep it dry until it gets to the landfill. And the landfill will be full of methane from all those deposits of used cat litter and fish bones and candy wrappers, so that at some point, it can be mined for methane for use by the gas company.
The only issue I have with my use of plastic bags for cat litter is that some day, some archaeologist doing an exploratory dig on what he thinks is a midden kitchen will come across those bags of used cat litter, and wonder why, if we were all so civilized, we didn’t have flush toilets.


R. Shearer

Landfill gas is already collected and used to generate electricity in many locales.

When I was younger I clearly remember that two common forms of plastic washed up on beaches were tampon applicators and shotgun wads. I still see shotgun wads, but not too many tampon applicators.
Oh wait, maybe I have those mixed up …


So, we need to breed microbes which enjoy nothing more than chowing down on applicator and wad plastic.
Somehow that doesn’t sound right.


Environmentalists could promote a return to paper wadding and cartridges, but then more forests would have to die to satisfy evil humynity’s violent impulses.

Pop Piasa

Max, If I’d only photographed some of the items that were fished out of toilet traps by the plumbers at SIUE while I was a facilities manager. You name it, college kids try to flush it.

Pop Piasa

I do remember standing with the sewer plant operator, watching a stream of floating plastic tampon applicators coming off the skimmers and him remarking that synchronous estrus is observable in the sewage stream. (Odd dudes, sewage plant operators.)


Back in the day refuse was burned. Now we have better particulate filters, incinerators could liberate us of the trash and use the energy liberated to make steam and drive a turbine. Once we get past the current CO2 scam it will all become clear – roading Monckton’s recent paper the day is not far off.

Jordan Peterson has become a hero to many including myself. He talks about personal responsibility and personal action. He describes the efforts of the social justice warriors as minimal effortless preening. It does not take a lot of personal effort to paint a sign or in a lot of cases just pick up a pre-made sign and show up at events and shout. To claim that we should do away plastics is easy, to actually do it takes personal responsibility and action. Peterson says to young people find a problem then go about fixing it. The linked video is about a person that Peterson uses as an example of someone that did just that. This is what environmentalism should be about. Boyan Slat went scuba diving and saw a problem, too much plastic. He set about to solve the problem.

“Boyan Slat went scuba diving and saw a problem, too much plastic. He set about to solve the problem.”
He should be admired for his concern and resolve to solve a problem. But I think he would be more likely to be successful if he’d thought more initially about where the plastic in the ocean comes from.
It seems to the best solution lies in stopping plastic from getting into the ocean in the first place. And recent research points to only a relatively small number of rivers as the source of a large portion of ocean plastics, as has been discussed below:


Two simple things
What is the difference between plastic and rock in a landfill
No rubbish left behind, collect and recycle it all, no threats no stigma.

michael hart

I have yet to see any convincing evidence that plastics are generally any worse than other long-lasting materials in the environment such as cellulose from trees and plants or inorganic compounds that are found in sand, silt, or mud.
Plastics may offend the human eye, but there is no special chemical property that makes them inherently harmful. That’s why they are so widely used as food containers. It is also well within our abilities to make plastics that degrade faster, if we wish. But banning something is always the first resort of strident environmentalists, especially if it can be associated with the petroleum industry. Once again, the defenders of industry seem to have gone AWOL.

I have to take exception with the idea that plastic is made from refining waste.
Most plastic is produced from ethylene and propylene which are best made from petroleum/natural gas or light naphta. It is possible to crack also the residual fractions, but it takes much more work.


Is it really so difficult? Just collect it all, no fines, no threats, all of it. Then mine it.


Next year, it will be the population bomb, again, and the green blight, which includes the environmental impact of windmills and photovoltaic panels… Scratch the second. They can still squeeze life from the organic black blob.


The population bomb, again, and again, and again. The solution, the wicked solution, the final solution, Planned Parenthood, is not for the human oriented. You know you’re out there.


If they emphasize the population bomb again, I hope a group of dedicated green doctors set up a tent, offer free vasectomies to the male attendees, and encourage the women to shame the men into having them. Let them lead the way to Earth’s salvation!


They want everyone else and their progeny to die. Not themselves. They are the perfect – at at least best – specimens.


A use for plastic waste in the UK is being developed by some entrepreneurs who convert the waste into plastic pellets which are incorporated with bitumen and roadstone to make a longer lasting road surface. It also has use in repairing potholes when the degree of resilience provided by the plastic helps prevent the repair being broken up by the next heavy lorry driving over it.

michael hart

Very sensible. Of course many useful road ingredients are already made from end-products of the petroleum industry, but greens don’t like to admit it to themselves. They still think we could manage with wooden wheels moving in a rut defined by cobblestones à la ancient Pompei.

Roy Hartwell

An article this week in the Daily Telegraph stated that scientists were worried that the melting Arctic ice would release massive amounts of plastic waste held in the ice.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong but how did the plastic end up in ice that is supposed to NOT have formed because of global warming which allegedly has all occurred since plastics were first developed on a large scale !
Perhaps our ancient ancestors did know a trick or two after all.