Payment for convenience of plastic is quickly becoming ‘past due’

The inclusion of plastic in our lives has grown exponentially over the past 70 years, making our lives easier, more convenient and often at a significant cost savings almost too good to be true.

As we have begun to realize, that’s exactly what it was; the interest rate on the cost of convenience has come due with an unexpected balloon payment.

We produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic products each year, nearly half of which is designed for single-use purposes in what has increasingly become a disposable society. And despite our efforts to educate the public about the importance of “Reduce, Re-use and Recycle,” each year more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans.

And that was before China, which has been the recipient of nearly a third of America’s recycle waste, anounced plans to ban the import of 24 different kinds of assorted waste — including unsorted paper and several types of plastic.

When we lose electricity in our home, I still walk into every dark room and flip the switch because it’s second nature. I’m so used to it being there that I don’t even think about how often — and in how many ways — I use electricity without giving it a second thought.

The same can be said for our use of plastic. Here are a few statistics to help illustrate the scope of how plastic has become a second-nature element of our lives:

  • Worldwide, more than 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, or more than 1 million bags every minute.
  • The average “working life” of a plastic bag is 15 minutes, after which it “retires.”
  • In 1996, 3.8 billion plastic water bottles were sold in the U.S. By 2014, that number had grown to 57.3 billion.
  • It’s no small irony that the process of producing a water bottle actually requires six times as much water as there is in the actual container itself.

In Lane County, our goal was to recyle two-thirds of our waste products by 2025. We were making great strides, leading the state in this campaign by being the only county in Oregon to sending more waste to recyclers than we did to landfills.

However, restrictions that we in the Siuslaw region began to feel late last year, and which became official at the beginning of January, are jeopardizing the progress we’ve made as a county, and ultimately as a society.

While our dependence on plastic is a global issue, the solutions will need to be implemented one community at a time, with the first step in that process being education.

Before we can solve the plastic problem, we need to fully understand its scope and the ways it is intertwined not only among those of us who use it, but how any changes we make could impact us economically.

In that spirit, Siuslaw News and KCST/KCFM Coast Radio, along with sponsors Central Coast Disposal, the City of Florence, County Transfer and Recycling and Lane County Waste Management, are hosting a special screening of the documentary “A Plastic Ocean,” along with a panel discussion at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. today.

The event is free, and there are only a few dozen tickets still available at Siuslaw News (148 Maple St.)

The film offers a sobering look at the impact of plastic on our planet’s oceans. We hope it will spur the kind of community conversation that will lead to solutions in dealing with what we once embraced as an element of everyday life that was too good to be true.


Write Siuslaw News editor Ned Hickson at [email protected] or P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439.


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