Staff Editorial

Staff Editorial: It May be Plastic, But It’s not Fantastic

A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a bill that would restrict the sale of consumer goods on all city property. The bill, conceived and drafted by board member David Chiu, would ban the sale of plastic water bottles under 21 oz. at all public events and by food trucks that are regulated by the city. Although many city citizens and environmentalists are rallying behind this bill in support, it does appear to be deeply flawed. The bill will only forbid the sale and use of plastic water bottles, and not other kinds of plastic goods and packaging. This raises the question: Is the ban even worth it after all?

The main goal of the bill is to reduce plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles that are ending up in landfills used by the city. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released figures that attest to the fact that PET should be the least of San Francisco’s concerns. In total, U.S. consumers produced more than 251 million tons of municipal solid waste per year, of which 2.79 million tons were PET bottles. The EPA also reports that PET bottles have the highest recovery rate of all recycled plastics, coming in at 30.8 percent. This leaves millions of tons of waste that are virtually unaccounted for, proving PET bottles should be low priority. These numbers also appear to underscore the fact that San Francisco is already home to many staunch environmentalists who do recycle.

So, if the focus can be taken off of the environmental impact that PET bottles have, then the focus must be placed on the behavioral responsibility the consumer holds. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chiu said in an interview regarding the bill that he “want[s] to remind people that not long ago, our world was not addicted to plastic water bottles…[and] for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated.”

Chiu’s statement is true, but he fails to recognize that the increase of U.S. bottled water consumption was not because Americans consciously decided to pollute the earth and contribute to environmental degradation. According to an article published in scienceblogs.com by environmentalist Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, good marketing against the use of tap water, faulty environmental education, lax enforcement of environmental laws and lack of access to public drinking fountains are all contributing factors to increased water bottle consumption. This, coupled with data retrieved from the Beverage Marketing Corporation shows that Americans went from drinking less than 5 gallons of bottled water per year in 1976, to more than 35 gallons of bottled water per year in 2012.

Although the bill is awaiting final approval before being signed into law by San Francisco mayor, Ed Lee, let the heat surrounding this ordinance be a reminder of the greater impact of individual action. Plastic waste is not just an environmental problem, but a behavioral problem on behalf of consumers. The reason why this bill seems ridiculous is not because it aims to cull plastic consumption, but because it singles out plastic water bottle use. If city officials want to maximize the effectiveness of this bill, it would be smarter to push for stricter legislation that would ban all PET packaging sold in the city.

276 thoughts on “Staff Editorial: It May be Plastic, But It’s not Fantastic”

  1. There are at least 2.8 million files in the system while approximately two-thirds of them were not authorized by their writers, Zhang Hongbo, another member of the alliance, told Oriental Morning Post. “How can they pick them out and delete them in three days?” Shanghai will continue to take a leading national role propelling reform and sustainable development next year, the city’s Party Secretary Han Zheng said yesterday. Priority will be given to economic stabilization, said Han, speaking at the third plenary meeting of the 10th Shanghai Municipal Congress of the Communist Party of China, which concluded yesterday.

  2. In particular, he said, “we have noticed a two-tier market emerging in terms of investor behavior in Shanghai. Foreign investors are becoming slightly more cautious due to slowing rental growth and a gradual increase in offshore interest rates because of monetary policy in the US. Domestic owner-occupiers remain willing to pay very high prices for office assets in core locations.” Deals concluded in the last quarter of 2013 probably underlined this trend. In the citys largest-ever office transaction, Oriental Financial Center, a Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa development in the heart of the financial district of Lujiazui in Pudong, was sold for approximately 7.1 billion yuan to Bank of Communications and China Everbright in October.

  3. Boeing delivered six 747-8 stretched jumbos and five of the new carbon-composite Dreamliners. Airbus delivered four A380 superjumbos, all in January and February, and started assembling the first A350, its answer to the 787, this week.

  4. China CITIC Bank Corp added 1.8 percent to 4.97 yuan. Hua Xia Bank Co Ltd gained 1.4 percent to 7.88 yuan. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd lost 0.9 percent to 3.23 yuan.

  5. Li’s woes are shared across the industry, with property agents all complaining about a slump in business. In January, the central government intensified its effort to stop what it considers a bubble driven by speculative buyers more interested in profit than a roof over their heads. On January 26, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, added eight new measures to its arsenal, including an increase in mortgage down payments for second houses, a ban on locals purchasing third or more homes and a ban on newer residents to the city buying beyond one home. Just one day later, Shanghai launched its long-anticipated property tax pilot project, imposing a rate of 0.4 percent or 0.6 percent on newly purchased homes, depending on per square meter price of the property. And in a very prompt response to the central government’s directive, Shanghai released details for local implementation of the tightened rules – one of the first cities in the country to do so.

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