The ACC is “disappointed” about the UN Ocean Conference’s focus on reducing plastic use.

*Let me apologize a head of time if this post gets cynical. 

Hopefully most of you are aware that the UN Ocean Conference happened this week. Though I have not been able to keep up with all the progress coming out of the event (I am in the middle of completing my Master’s dissertation), I can tell you that there was significant focus on the issue of marine litter.

According to the American Chemistry Council’s Vice President of Plastics (yes, that is his title), the event was disappointingly focused on bans, and reducing the use of plastic, instead of bolstering waste management, recycling, and waste to energy plants.

“We had hoped the outcomes would focus more on building political and financial support for improved waste management, or on deploying innovative recycling and energy recovery. Recommendations to instead ban or reduce the use of specific products may give the illusion of progress, but in fact don’t help us solve the bigger problem.”

There is so much that could be said about these remarks.

First of all, you Sir, are the Vice President of Plastics. Of course you are going to oppose efforts to reduce plastic consumption (and thus production). The American Chemistry Council represents the largest resin manufacturers in the country, and the US is the third largest producers of plastic worldwide.

Secondly, waste management cannot be the primary solution, because no system is 100% effective. The United States plastic recycling rate is 9%. We are one of the most powerful countries in the world, and we just can’t be bothered to properly dispose of our trash. Plus, our recycling gets shipped to China and then we don’t really know what happens to it anyways.

I’m not saying that cleaning up our waste management scheme isn’t going to help. It will. Of course it will. And it needs to be done. There is a lot of infrastructure involved with waste management; trucks, sorting plants, landfills, incinerators. In places who’s litter problem is based on the fact that they don’t have these facilities doesn’t it seem simpler to ban plastic? Especially single-use unnecessary plastic, then to tell them that they have to build this infrastructure? Unless of course the ACC is funding landfills and recycling plants on every island in Indonesia, and offering the money to run them.

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