WBEZ | Plastic waste http://www.wbez.org/tags/plastic-waste Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EcoMyths: Paper or plastic? The answer may be 'neither' http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-paper-or-plastic-answer-may-be-neither-110251 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths-plastic paper.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&#39;s new plastic bag restriction represents an effort to green up the city, but does it imply that paper is the eco-friendly choice? Northwestern University&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.mech.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/profiles/masanet-eric.html">Eric Masanet</a> joins Kate Sackman from <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/myth-paper-bags-are-greener-than-plastic/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> to discuss the environmental effects of both paper and plastic single-use bags.</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-64ee338f-4856-4acf-e34a-1f88e793c45a"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151549171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></span></p><p><strong>The Myth</strong></p><p>In his introduction to sustainable engineering classes at Northwestern University, professor Eric Masanet likes to set the tone for the semester by posing the once ubiquitous checkout question: &quot;Paper or plastic?&quot; For many of his eager young students, the answer seems obvious&mdash;paper breaks down fast in the environment, is easy to recycle, and comes from trees. Meanwhile, plastic is notorious for building up indefinitely in the environment, harming aquatic ecosystems and clogging drains, and is made from fossil fuel. With all that in mind, it&#39;s easy to conclude that paper bags are the eco-winner.</p><p><strong>The Facts</strong></p><p>But life cycle analysis (LCA)&mdash;i.e., measuring an item&#39;s cradle-to-grave impact&mdash;reveals a more complex picture. In terms of single use bags, &quot;the science shows that moving from plastic to paper is not necessarily &#39;greener,&#39;&quot; says Masanet. In a nutshell, here are the key categories he says are part of determining the environmental footprint of any bag:</p><ul><li><em>Production</em>: For both plastic and paper, processing raw materials and manufacturing the final product causes pollution and requires energy and water. The numbers are too complex to get into here, but the UK&#39;s Environment Agency&#39;s<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291023/scho0711buan-e-e.pdf"> life cycle analysis</a> determined that the impact of paper production on human health and eco-toxicity is &quot;significantly worse&quot; than plastic&#39;s.</li><li><em>Distribution</em>: Simply put, because a paper bag is five to seven times heavier than a plastic bag, transporting paper bags requires more resources to move it from point A to B. With more trucks, you burn more fuel, and you get more greenhouse gas emissions.</li><li><em>End of life</em>: Paper definitely scores points for being easily recycled, or, if trashed, breaking down quickly. But worth noting, too, is that UK LCA&#39;s estimate that 76 percent of plastic shopping bags are reused at least once, which can help reduce the purchase of new trash bags and pet waste bags.</li></ul><p>Does biodegradability trump reuse? Does harming aquatic life outweigh distribution-related air pollution? Masanet cautions us from calling a winner, because there are so many variables involved&hellip;which is why, when he learned of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-crack-down-plastic-bags-pedicabs-110113">City of Chicago&#39;s new bill</a> to restrict plastic bags, he worried it might have the unintended consequence of making paper the de facto eco-hero in this story.</p><p><strong>One Green Thing</strong></p><p>So, what&#39;s a planet-appreciating person to do? You probably know the answer: <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/OGT-BYOB.png">BYOB</a>. In terms of legislation, perhaps Chicago can take a cue from cities like <a href="http://bringitaustin.com/ordinance">Austin</a>, TX, which banned businesses from providing single-use bags of any kind, but instead recommends reusables.</p><p>Compared with both paper and plastic single-use bags, reusable bags are &quot;an environmental slam dunk&mdash;if you reuse them,&quot; says Masanet. If you need to buy a bag, opt for <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/ready-to-buy-reusable-bags-for-the-win/">durable recycled plastic options</a> over cotton, unless you plan to reuse the cotton bags hundreds of times.</p><p>To learn more, check out the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/myth-paper-bags-are-greener-than-plastic/">cartoon and full myth</a> at EcoMyths.</p></p> Tue, 27 May 2014 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-paper-or-plastic-answer-may-be-neither-110251 How to live a life free from plastic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/how-live-life-free-plastic-100580 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5942_AP110114022350-scr.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 324px; float: left;" title="An x-ray at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Miami shows the plastic fishing line and hook that a pelican swallowed as it tried to get a fish that was hooked on the line. More than 1,500 birds are treated at the center each year. (AP/File)" />While recovering from surgery in 2007, Beth Terry read an article &mdash; and saw a photo &mdash; that changed her life.</div></div><p>In the article, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.menshealth.com/best-life/water-pollution" target="_blank">Our&nbsp;Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic&hellip; Are We?</a>&rdquo; a photo depicted the carcass of a dead sea bird, its belly full of plastic pieces: bottle caps, cigarette lighters, even a toothbrush. Terry was horrified, and decided to evaluate how her life of over consumption directly contributed to such suffering.</p><p>Her tranformation showed real results: Even the hardback version of her book,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/plastic-free-how-i-kicked-the-plastic-habit-and-how-you-can-too/" target="_blank">Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too</a>,&nbsp;</em>was created without any plastic coatings or glue and is sewn with cotton thread. Though available online and in bookstores, Terry assures that the booked will be shipped without plastic if ordered through her website. (The book is also available in digital format.)</p><p>Terry has collected her own plastic waste for the past five years and blogs about it on her site, <a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/">My Plastic Free Life</a>.&nbsp; She says individual Americans generate about 100 pounds of plastic waste a year; Terry has gotten her own use down to just two pounds annually. She spoke at TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch: The Global Plastic Pollution Crisis conference in 2010:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/3JXWRVrFiKs" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Terry believes we all must take ownership over our plastic consumption, to save not only our planet&rsquo;s wildlife, but ourselves:</p><blockquote><p style="margin-left: 1in;">Personal&nbsp;responsibility is&nbsp;crucial, and I don&rsquo;t&nbsp;believe we can solve&nbsp;our plastic problem&nbsp;without it. But&nbsp;even greater results are&nbsp;achieved&nbsp;when consumers come together to demand change from the corporations that produce the stuff. From the beginning, I took the time to write and call companies asking for less plastic packaging.&nbsp; And in 2008, I spearheaded a massive campaign, <a href="http://www.takebackthefilter.org/" target="_blank">Take Back The Filter</a>, to ask Clorox to take back its plastic Brita water filter cartridges for recycling, as was already being done by the Brita company in Europe. The campaign was a success for all involved, and Brita filters can now be recycled in the U.S. and Canada. . . .</p><p style="margin-left: 1in;">. . .Living with less plastic is really not as hard as it seems, but our awareness of disposable plastic in our lives can be transformative. To that end, I <a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/05/challenge-show-us-your-plastic-trash/" target="_self" title="Show Us Your Plastic Trash">threw down the gauntlet</a> last May and invited Fake Plastic Fish readers to collect and tally their own plastic waste for a week and upload the results to a new <a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/showyourplastic/" target="_self" title="Show Your Plastic Trash">Show Your Plastic Trash web site</a>. How can we know where we need to go if we don&rsquo;t know where we are to begin with? Solving the plastic pollution problem will require more than individual personal actions. But individual actions and personal awareness are essential for creating the kind of world in which we want to live and the impetus to spark bigger actions.</p></blockquote></p> Mon, 02 Jul 2012 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/how-live-life-free-plastic-100580 Worldview 7.2.12 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/worldview-7212-100579 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/860394363_949d49ae37_z.jpg" title="(Flickr/meaduva)" /></div><p>Monday on&nbsp;<em>Worldview</em>:</p><p><a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/about-me/" target="_blank">Beth Terry</a>, author of <a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/plastic-free-how-i-kicked-the-plastic-habit-and-how-you-can-too/" target="_blank"><em>Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too</em>,</a>&nbsp;shares how she reduced her plastic comsumption from 100 pounds a year to just two pounds. Terry has been collecting her own plastic waste for the past five years and <a href="http://myplasticfreelife.com/" target="_blank">blogging about it</a> on her site. She says people are addicted to the convenience of plastic and simple steps can change the way plastic is comsumed day to day.</p><p>One of Terry&#39;s favorite facts is plastic can be found in chewing gum. How much do you know about plastic? What steps can you take to avoid using unecessary plastic?</p><p><strong>Call 312-923-9239 to ask Beth Terry your plastic questions. </strong></p></p> Mon, 02 Jul 2012 10:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/worldview-7212-100579