Plastic solutions from the producers

Sep 1, 2011 9:45 AM ET


By Carol Pierson Holding 

Americans are as addicted and repelled by plastic as residents of Los Angeles were by cars in the 1960s. Los Angeleans had to experience stinging eyes and hacking coughs, then school closures, closed government offices and businesses before the city and state governments enacted legislation that tightened emissions standards.

With plastics, equally potent images come to mind: Plastic bags covering park hillsides, the island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, plastic bottle dumps, and the much-publicized health risks associated with plastics. This includes the latest from Utne Reader, whose piece on healthy sex toys sums up the dangers posed by the plasticizer phthalates used in jelly-rubber sex toys (the same ingredient recently banned in teething rings): Possible infertility, hormone imbalances and other health problems. 

Outrage is growing, especially those who remember pre-plastic grocery stores and rubber teething rings. How could plastic have been allowed to take over our lives and endanger our loved ones? 

But plastic bottles are just one scourge. Regulation can’t be passed on a national level because of the objections from the massively powerful beverage industry, which spent nearly $60 million on lobbying in 2009 and $42 million in 2010. Instead bottle recycling mandates pass at the city or state level, where people experience the damage. 

But now, anti-plastic bottle sentiment in the US is reaching a tipping point. Beverage companies are sensing the outrage from their customers and, fearing Federal legislation, are finally addressing it. It’s exactly what’s happening with cars. 

A new report from the advocacy group As You Sow cites two companies, both with predictably higher than average overall environmental ratings, for sponsoring regulation on how to deal with empty plastic bottles. The Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé Waters North America are pressing publicly for “state extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws for post-consumer packaging similar to those in place in Canada and Europe.”   

Continue reading about plastic bottle producers' work to green their industry