What can be done about reducing the amount of plastic trash from numerous sources that are seriously threatening the oceans?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Plastic is ubiquitous in modern daily life because of its light weight, malleability, and versatility in making hundreds of different products from straws to containers to automobile parts to siding for houses. It’s generally accepted plastic has been positive for the world in many ways. But the downside of this wonder material is its slow decomposition rate due to the fact that plastic is composed of large molecules.

The pollution concerns regarding plastic have exploded in recent years with the discovery of large floating masses of plastic in the oceans, landfills that are running out of space, and microscopic plastic particles that are polluting water, aquatic animals, and humans. Solutions to this pollution problem are many and varied. Most seem to lack feasibility, affordability, and/or the political will to address the issue.

As a libertarian thinker, I favor a policy that advocates whatever human activity takes place should have no net adverse effect on all humans and the environment. The cost of cleaning up any pollution should be factored into the cost of everything. If the cost of preventing one disposable plastic shopping bag from polluting the world doubles or triples the price of that bag, that cost should be factored into the price. With all plastic products priced to reflect their real cost to society, other materials will immediately become more popular and their use will spread.

Research and technology should be funded to improve methods of mitigating plastic pollution. As much as I hate to promote taxes, they should be enacted for a short period of time to finance a jump start in research activity so we can improve and accelerate the removal of plastics that have already infiltrated the ecosystem.

Next, we need a massive public awareness campaign to encourage everyone to use a substitute for products such as plastic straws, bags, and food containers. Biodegradable plastic is in use now and should be utilized more. The use of old-technology paper straws and containers should be adopted by businesses and consumers.

Much like global warming problems, we have solutions to plastic pollution. We know we need to reduce, reuse, and recycle on a micro and macro level. The catalyst to address and fix this problem will only come when political leaders begin to lead and take action rather than pander to voters by pretending those problems don’t exist.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The vast quantities of plastics in the oceans is a burgeoning and deadly threat to our existence, as the plastics break down and poison sea life…and even us directly.  There is no one “big” solution to this, but rather a concerted effort by small and large businesses to cut down on their plastic use.  Starbucks has already taken the step of phasing out plastic straws, and McDonald’s is doing the same. While straws make up only about 4% of the total yearly production of plastic waste, this is still a step in the right direction.

Packaging, manufacturing and advertising are all areas where plastics use can be cut dramatically, and hopefully as the business world realizes the PR benefits that come with being seen as environmentally friendly, change will come. Legislative will must also come into play, with things like Seattle’s plastic grocery bag ban being instituted much more widely and to greater effect.  It will take a menu of measures to keep us from drowning in our own filth.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-This is something that will take a STRONG turn around on a national and worldwide level. A lot of smaller municipalities are taking a stand against plastic and helping to combat the issue. Here locally the town of Surfside Beach has initiated a plastic bag ban. Businesses are no longer allowed to provide single use plastic bags for purchases in grocery stores or any stores. Overall the reception from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Also, there is a local group who began a program called “Strand Strawless Summer”. This program is one that restaurants sign up to take part in, and as part of the program they do not give plastic straws unless they are requested. For the most part when people hear about the program they fore-go the straw. Some local restaurants have also started using paper straws instead. Another good example is the national grocery chain Aldi. They do not offer plastic single use bags.  Not only is this positive for the environment so people can bring their re-usable bags, but from a business standpoint that is an expense they don’t have! All around good ideas on all of these programs and initiatives.

The local programs are a great start; however, we need national attention. I tend to shy away from the government intervening and mandating laws. We shouldn’t NEED them for this type of issue. But, if more places don’t start to change I think we as a global community are going to have to step up and start some type of enforcement on single use plastic “things.”

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