Random... Instead of banning straws, we should ban balloons, especially the helium ones.

If you didn't know, helium is used for a variety of medical applications, like MRIs. We have limited supply and balloons account for about 7% of the use.

Balloons should cost $100 a pop, given the limited supply. Pun intended.

@KARiley40 Not mutually exclusive? I suspect more disposable straws are present these days than disposable balloons (certainly more plastic I have consumed comes from the former than the latter). At any rate, a better goal to state than banning plastic straws is "mostly eliminating them" (leaving accessibility cases intact)

@cwebber Mostly the helium. And it's more, sort of a jab at the whole fight between that straws have a use to disabled people and we shouldn't be fighting over this minuscule bit of plastic (compared to the whole), when there is this other minuscule bit of plastic out there that actually could be done away with an no one would notice/care/be affected... and might be a positive.

@KARiley40 Definitely good to eliminate that.

It's true that people hyperfocus on plastic straws... even in the consumer sector, omnipresent plastic wrap around nearly everything purchased is probably more serious. That said, awareness starts somewhwere; the main thing is, can it spread? (And ack that you're pushing for spreading it to some other things.)

@KARiley40 What I don't agree with is that if we want to be "on target" for an environment that is inhabitable for future generations that individuals won't be inconvenienced in the short term. It's not just straws; industrial use of disposable plastic has, in the short term, reduced the cost of consumer goods.

But in the long run, if we change our methods of manufacturing, I don't think it will be a significant reduction of convenience. There's a lot of money for innovation there too.

@KARiley40 Not only reduced the cost of, has increased short-term-convenience. But long-term, we're taking a "loan against the future" that cannot be repaid because we are making future life harder.

I see a lot of my peers in my generation (millenials) blaming financial situation on our parents' generations making life harder for us for their convenience.

But that's going to be nothing compared to "converting the planet to trash", which has accelerated in our generation. We need to change.

@cwebber I fully agree with the previous two posts... Because if we don't fix this, like right now, then the only solution will be to get rid of all plastics.. all of them. Like we lose that privilege as a species.

And I don't want to end up there, because the harm it will cause.

The solution I know, will be complicated. We need innovation, on all fronts. We need things that functionally are plastic, but when disposed aren't.

I know this is being worked on.

Are the main problems with plastics that they hurt wildlife and get into drinking water? Is there anything else? It seems like using plastic isn't inherently harmful if it's disposed of properly, right?

@elplatt if you don’t have a problem ingesting micro-particles whenever you eat off of them they’re fine

@elplatt define "properly", though. Into landfill? How much of our land do we *want* to fill with single-use plastics that don't break down?

@telent @elplatt And how much of it gets there? Judging from the plastic bags I put in my pocket along the way as I take a swim in the bay, certainly not all the plastic goes to the landfill or stays there.


@cwebber But yeah, omg, the plastic wrap drives me bananas. Like no, I do not need a tiny plastic window in my otherwise paper bag so I can see the loaf of bread I know I just stuck in the bag. And little things like that.

I know there is big stuff out there, fishing nets come to mind, but I also know, we've got a lot of work to do, including the small things.

@KARiley40 sounds like we agree :)

I am trying to figure out how to change my purchase habits to reduce the amount of disposable plastic I use. I have considered doing a "month of almost no disposable plastic" but society has constructed itself in such a way that it feels like it would take an enormous amount of energy. That seems like a huge warning sign (and reason to do it).

@KARiley40 We need larger regulatory changes which target industrial production, "consumer" changes aren't enough.

But they are a starting place. Just look at how *easy* it is to be a vegetarian today compared to say, the 1970s when Peter Singer and co started arguing for it... Animal Liberation included some recipes mainly because most Americans couldn't fathom what a vegetarian diet would even *look* like. Consumer demand *did* drive a change there.

@KARiley40 These days I can eat at nearly any town in rural america as a vegetarian. My life would have been much harder if I started in the 1970s as opposed to the mid-2000s.

Imagine if the same could be the case for people refusing to make use of disposable plastics! Whereas today, as an American, making such changes seems almost infathomable.

@cwebber Yep, I agree! I go for the plastic-less option when I have an option, but like you said, it's hard to avoid.

And yes, our access to food, has allowed this new diet and I've also gotten smarter about the meat I do eat. I look for locally raised things, like chickens. That reduces the footprint of the meat a lot.

I do what I can where I can as best as I can. It's not perfect, but I know our buying habits are being watched and things are shifting.

@cwebber @KARiley40 disposable packaging has been leveraged by producers to externalise their costs. They don't pay to maintain landfills so it just becomes "someone else's problem". If one form of disposable packaging is banned they will just switch to different disposable packaging.

Perhaps if the producers of such waste were made responsible for the actual disposal costs they would be more motivated to actually reduce wasteful packaging.

@msh @cwebber I agree and it used to be that way. Soda bottling companies used to be responsible for the bottles. They would offer you a discount on your next purchase if you returned the bottle to the vendor.

Annndddd then that commercial about littering and the crying native american came along... and we shifted the blame to consumers.

I think we should go back to companies shouldering the blame.

@KARiley40 totally agree. There's a great segment on this in an episode of 'Adam Ruins Everything'.
@msh @cwebber

@KARiley40 @cwebber Where I live there is still a deposit/refund system in place for most beverage containers somewhat resembling this (a deposit is charged by the retailer and the consumer can redeem the deposit by returning empties to a depot). The operation of depots is at least partially funded by the beverage industry.

These days far less reuse is done than recycling as we use less glass bottles, but it still helps.

Perhaps this model could be extended to other industries.

@KARiley40 with today's technology this is even more feasible. Imagine if we could use the barcodes to direct all the disposable packaging back to the manufacturer and get a deposit refund?

Then the manufacturers would have to deal with the mountain of garbage themselves? Like, even buy land for landfills and pay for people to bury it for them?

They'd sure learn to love reusable containers fast.


@cwebber various people tried a year without plastic. Others have tried a year without sending any rubbish to landfill. These experiments serve similar functions to trying to live without proprietary software, a space to experiment with replacements and identify pain points that may need larger, collective action to address.

@KARiley40 @cwebber At least in Finland, the plastic-looking transparent parts of paper bread bags are often (I think usually) not made from oil, but plants, and is biodegradable. Not sure what it's called.

Still, not that useful to be transparent.

@liw I hope that's what they are made of and I kinda wonder if they are (makes sense!), but they don't label it as degradable or recyclable, so I don't know.

Best I can do is rip it apart, throw the plastic wrap away and put the paper in the recycling.

@liw @cwebber @KARiley40 Cellophane is the perfect material for this. It's transparent and biodegradeable and we've had it longer than we've had plastics.

> At any rate, a better goal to state than banning plastic straws is "mostly eliminating them" (leaving accessibility cases intact)

Plastic straws are not necessary and never were. You can make drinking straws out of metal, like any other piece of cutlery. Here in China I've seen some made out of bamboo, like most chopsticks (although metal ones are starting to turn up). Bamboo is a great replacement because growing it sequesters carbon.

@strypey @cwebber @KARiley40 Paper straw gets a bad rap, and I think unfairly. I generally don't use straws, but increasingly the ones I get offered are paper, and that makes me happy.

I also generally don't take the single-use utensils they give me, but increasingly the utensils are wood rather than plastic and I appreciate that. I've taken some of them and keep them as travel utensils in my backpacks, they're good for cleaning and using many times over.

@clacke Paper ones can be cheep and degrade if the person is a slow drinker. Also, they don't withstand chewing.

But over all, yeah, I agree. The alternatives exist for the vast majority of us to use and we should use them.

That said, still be aware of where things come from. Sometimes things that seem green, aren't.

Having lived near a paper mill, I can say they are pretty toxic, but most of that problem comes from the bleaching process to get perfectly white paper.

@cwebber @clacke Oh goodness, yes!

I think I just replied to someone else saying, that there is no one magic bullet for every situation.

Becoming educated on all the little products and things we use is the challenge. When is paper okay? When is it not? and so on.

I've heard of companies switching from paper packaging to plastic, and seeing a huge decrease in their water use. Was it worth it? 🤷

In short, it's complicated, but smart people are working on it.

@KARiley40 @clacke I agree with everything you say except "smart people are working on it". My suspicion is that there *aren't* enough smart people working on it, and as much resources (and pressure for change) as we need allocated in order for society to survive.

And that's my main area of concern.

@cwebber I can certainly see that and I do agree. We need to throw a lot more resources and people into the problem.

I guess I'm an optimist, cause I see change coming. Will it be fast enough? I don't know. The Koch brothers (and others) did so much damage. We were on track there for awhile, but they realized it would hurt them... so they set it all on fire.

@KARiley40 Yeah, and paper bags require as much energy or more to produce and transport as plastic bags. But they don't contribute to the plastic geological layer and whale guts, so there's that.

So many aspects to this not-ruining-everything thing.

@clacke Exactly! And it becomes complicated the deeper you get in.

I prefer the paper to the plastic, but I understand that paper has its own host of problems. We need innovation, like now.

@strypey @cwebber @KARiley40 When you move to Hong Kong, the first most important Cantonese you need to learn is "I don't need a bag", and then you need to learn "no, really, I don't need one, not for that either".

Service staff expect customers to want their plastic-wrapped frozen goods put in a plastic freezer bag so they don't get a few drops of condensate on the other goods in the plastic shopping bag.

@clacke My goodness, I had no idea. That's actually very interesting to me! That would be a big culture shift to get that practice to stop, by the sounds of it.

@KARiley40 Yeah. There's a tax on the outermost bag, but I don't know how much of a change it has made.

The bread shop people almost laugh at me when I take out my own plastic bag for the bread.

i bought metal and glass ones. they are great.

but this whole conversation is moot. corporations have tricked us into thinking that WE are the problem. I wonder what percentage of waste/global warming is caused by plastic straws...let's be generous and say 1%

the other 99%? coal/gas/air conditioners etc etc etch.

@strypey @cwebber I do think bamboo is a great alternative in many applications (chopsticks!), but it can be wasteful to produce, depending on the use.

I'm, in this case, talking about bamboo stuffing for blankets and pillows and things. Turns out, the process to produce this fiber involves a lot of chemicals, more so than cotton.

It's one of those, this is complicated, no one thing will provide us with a magic bullet to every situation.

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