July 31, 2013
by Peggy
Comments Off on Harry Potter and the Magic of Perspective (or How to Make Plastic Pollution Disappear)

Harry Potter and the Magic of Perspective (or How to Make Plastic Pollution Disappear)

Recently my 8 year-old daughter has been swept up in the Harry Potter novels, like her brother before her.  Seemingly over night, she’s been transformed into a speed reader, scarcely able to put down The Deathly Hallows.  J.K. Rowling’s captivating … Continue reading

May 12, 2013
by Peggy
Comments Off on Oceans in the Balance

Oceans in the Balance

The University of Virginia has a Lifetime Learning program called “More than the Score,” that plans educational lectures in conjunction with the home football games each fall. I was particularly interested in one talk from the series this year by … Continue reading

December 11, 2012
by Peggy
Comments Off on Book Recommendation: “Plastic Free, How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too”

Book Recommendation: “Plastic Free, How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too”

I’ve just finished reading Beth Terry’s new book, an inspiring guide to rethinking our plastic-laden lives. Plastic is an amazing invention—-so light! so resilient! so malleable! But the fact is, we’ve gone way overboard with this material. I won’t argue … Continue reading

December 4, 2012
by Peggy
Comments Off on Refillable Bottles: An Idea Whose Time has Come, Again!

Refillable Bottles: An Idea Whose Time has Come, Again!

  One of the most disconcerting developments in the news lately has been Coca-Cola’s determined transition away from its iconic refillable glass bottle and to its new-fashioned plastic “PlantBottle.”  On September 27th, Coke announced a major investment in the manufacture … Continue reading

October 12, 2012
by Peggy
Comments Off on Know Your Plastics: What is the PlantBottle?

Know Your Plastics: What is the PlantBottle?

Bioplastics can be confusing because we aren’t all chemists and we’re happy to gather from a quick glance that a brand we buy is making some kind of effort regarding the environment.  According to a 2010 Beveragepulse survey cited by … Continue reading

Plastic Bottles: “Endless Possibilities” or Endless Liabilities?

August 27, 2012 by Peggy | Comments Off on Plastic Bottles: “Endless Possibilities” or Endless Liabilities?

Really? Bill McDonough, famed co-author of “Cradle to Cradle,” stumping for Nestle? I happened across this promotional video for Nestle Waters yesterday, and was dumbstruck:

In the video, a series of young people hold an instantly recognizable plastic water bottle in their hands. But the bottle is empty, apparently worthless. Then Bill McDonough tells us that what he sees is not an empty bottle, but a vessel of endless possibilities! Yes, that water bottle is a valuable resource.

We at Brng.it see that Nestle PET bottle as an almost completely unnecessary waste of valuable resources to begin with. Apart from emergency situations, there is little justification for the production of plastic bottles of water.  We can’t do a better job of explaining why than Annie Leonard does, in her excellent video, “The Story of Bottled Water,” so please watch it.

Bill McDonough rightly points out that bottles can (sometimes) be made into more bottles, or into fleece and carpet. But then what, Bill?  Plastics recycling is by and large a so-called “open loop” system. Plastics get about one more use before going to the landfill or incinerator.  The plain fact is that most plastic doesn’t ever get recycled. And worse yet, far too much gets into the environment, where it will never go away. We have scarcely begun to acknowledge this, let alone deal with the ramifications (see video below).

The most appalling thing about the Nestle video is the way it suggests that, hey, maybe consumers should consider recycling their plastic water bottles. Why do we find this so infuriating?  It’s because the most effective means of getting PET bottles recycled–if that’s the goal– is to require refundable bottle deposits.  Significant deposits, like the 10 cents per bottle currently being considered nationally in Australia. Yet Nestle, Coke and Pepsi, the big three water bottlers, staunchly oppose bottle deposit legislation.

Just this year, the state of Massachusetts planned to update its 30-year-old bottle deposit law. The legislation was wildly popular, with a poll indicating 77% of the public agreed that water bottles, juice bottles and sports drink bottles should all be added to the existing deposit law.  But in early July, at around the time Nestle released their “Endless Possibilities” video, lobbyists for Nestle, Coke, Pepsi, Ocean Spray and Polar Beverages of New England were actively pressuring legislators to reject the updated bottle bill for Massachusetts, claiming that it would decrease their profits. And they were successful.

Where Nestle and Bill McDonough see endless possibilities, we see endless and intolerable liabilities for people and the planet.

Don’t drink the bottled water, #BYOR!

 

August 23, 2012
by Peggy
Comments Off on Know Your Plastics: #1 PET

Know Your Plastics: #1 PET

Plastic #1.  PET or PETE, sometimes now also rPET (containing some recycled content) is short for Polyethylene Terephthalate.  Most plastic soda and water bottles are made of PET, as are many food containers.  Although ten U.S. states have bottle deposit … Continue reading

Bottled Water on the Rebound?

May 22, 2012 by Peggy | Comments Off on Bottled Water on the Rebound?

National Geographic published an article this week on bottled water sales in the U.S.

The shocker is that bottled water sales are starting to pick up again, after a few years of decline.  Last year (2011) bottled water sales reached 9.1 billion gallons– over 29 gallons for every U.S. citizen– for which we paid $21.7 billion. Hard to believe we fork over that kind of money for something that’s practically free from the tap.

In recent years there has been a grassroots effort to call attention to the fact that the bottled water industry is bad for people and the planet. The big three bottled water companies, Coke, Pepsi and Nestle, want us to believe that drinking bottled water is better for us than drinking tap water, even though bottled water is often just tap water dressed in a PET package.  It’s packaged for our convenience (and their profits), but not for our health (see our post on chemicals that leach from packaging) or the long-term health of the planet (see this Ted Talk by Capt. Charles Moore on the problem of plastic pollution).

Here’s a basic review of the argument against bottled water  from Annie Leonard:

But at the same time bottled water sales seem to be picking up, opposition to any such trend is growing as well. A number of universities and local governments are rejecting bottled water. Loyola University in Chicago recently banned the sale of bottled water on its campus, stating in its press release, “We feel that safe and accessible water is a fundamental human right and must not be handled in ways that put profits over people.”

Avoid plastic-packaged water–costly to both pocket book and environment– and support protection of native water resources for all. #BYOR!

 

Plastic’s Getting Old

January 5, 2012 by Peggy | Comments Off on Plastic’s Getting Old

As we begin the New Year, we look forward to starting afresh. Perhaps we have in mind developing better habits, achieving a particular goal, or experiencing new things. I’ll be working on shedding plastic from my life. First a novelty, then a convenience, and now a plague – throw-away plastics have become (for me, anyway) an emblem of what ails us. The Guardian published a piece this week on the “wave of revulsion” that plastic bags have triggered globally, noting that a growing awareness of plastic pollution is resulting in worldwide efforts to ban or tax the plastic bag.

The Impact of Plastic Bags – from ‘Message in the Waves’ by Rebecca Hosking.

The Guardian’s article credits the efforts of a single person, Rebecca Hosking, with getting the ball rolling on plastic bag bans.  Hosking, a British filmmaker who co-produced a nature film about  the Hawaiian islands for the BBC in 2006, visited the Midway atoll, and was appalled by what she found there. (You can see her entire 48 minute documentary, Hawaii: Message in the Waves, online).  When she returned home to her town of Modbury, she successfully committed herself to ending the distribution of disposable plastic bags by every retail establishment there.

As it happens, the Hawaii County Council just this week voted to ban plastic bags used at all check-out stands on the Big Island. Kauai and Maui counties already have bag bans in place. If Hawaii’s Mayor Billy Kenoi signs the bill into law, Honolulu will be the only county in the state that has yet to enact similar legislation.  Go for it, Hawaii, trashy plastics have no place in paradise!

UPDATE:  On January 18, 2012, The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported on Mayor Kenoi’s decision to “ok” the plastic bag ban.  The law, authored by Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, will go into effect in 2013, allowing for transition time and further education on the issue.  Wrote Mayor Kenoi, “In the end this bill is not about plastic bags, politics or the Hawaii City Council.  It’s about protecting our beautiful island.”

UPDATE: March 25, 2012, Honolulu enacts legislation to ban single-use plastic bags which will take effect July 1, 2015.  This makes the state of Hawaii the first to have statewide restrictions on plastic bags.