If we don’t want more bans, we need to change

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:00pm

There is a crisis brewing in the recycling trade.

In 2016, China imported 7 million tons of plastic products. The problem was that much of it was contaminated with other products, so it could not be recycled. As a result, in 2018, China stopped almost all of its plastic scrap imports, leaving it to other countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. There are reports that those countries, too, will be cutting back their scrap plastic imports. These countries are getting rid of their unused scrap plastic in the worst way: They burn it, which pollutes the atmosphere in another way.

Of the millions of tons of scrap plastic that China imported annually, 700,000 tons of that came from the U.S. A tiny, little, minute bit of that comes from Block Island.

What to do? Rather than considering more bans on the island, which is a reflexive, relatively easy approach, it’s now time to consider how much plastic is used on the island. Does each sandwich sold have to come in a plastic box? Do cold cuts need to be packaged in a plastic bag? Do takeout containers need to be plastic?

The plastic that is thrown away here ends up on the mainland and is shipped overseas. Block Island can continue its trailblazing path by utilizing an organized, sensible approach to plastic use reduction. It would result in one less piece to burn, one less piece wrapped around the neck of a marine animal, and a positive step for all of us.