- The 5 Gyres Institute, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation and UPSTREAM have teamed up to release the Plastics BAN (Better Alternatives Now) List of "the most harmful" plastic products sold in California. The list is based on multiple datasets about which items are found in the environment, toxicity analysis and available recovery systems.
- The list's top five offenders are food wrappers and containers such as plastic cookie trays, bottle and container caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers, and beverage bottles. The report says these type of singe-use to-go items are especially harmful because they aren't accepted in common state recycling systems.
- Proposed solutions include using more plant-based biodegradable material in packaging and utensils, carrying reusable bottles and utensils, and increasing bottle deposit refunds to encourage recycling.
The report cites the widely used Ellen MacArthur Foundation statistic that there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the world's ocean by 2050. It also says "the most effective strategy to solve the problem of plastic pollution is to drastically reduce the use of single-use, disposable plastic." The toxic ocean plastic problem has become a big issue recently, attracting international attention from government officials and celebrities alike. Many agree that products need to be designed with a circular economy system in mind, but that has proven difficult to implement on a large scale.
While scientists have been working on an exciting range of plant-based biodegradable products, the United Nations Environment Programme has warned that they may not be the answer and local collection programs have experienced challenges with processing some of these products. The manufacturers behind some of the products on the BAN List have offered a few alternatives but seem more focused on finding ways to prove the recyclability of their current products through special collection and drop-off programs.
It's possible that manufacturers can create adequate recovery solutions, but states such as California don't seem convinced. An internal memo from the California Department of Resources Recycling Recovery showed interest in creating "a mandatory comprehensive, statewide packaging program" earlier this year after officials became frustrated with the manufacturing industry's solutions. Many of these companies have invested millions into two statewide referendums related to a single-use plastic bag ban in California which voters will be deciding on next week.