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@BethTerry Sorry if I have offended, but the blog asked for " for the best idea for reducing plastic pollution, whether it’s the invention of a new material or a technology or a process or… whatever". I would suggest that the best idea for doing so is to reduce demand, either by raising the price or shrinking the pool of consumers. To my mind, the most realistic options are a carbon tax and population reduction by promoting the idea that excessive reproduction is unpatriotic/immoral.
As for being an "entrepreneur", well that pretty much describes what I've been doing as an environmental activist for the past 30 years. People who organize community economic development projects, who organize community groups, who educate the public, are all "entrepeneurs"----they just aren't being paid.
Reading between the lines, it appears that what you are looking for is some sort of "technofix" that will make the problem of disposable plastic go away without having to make any significant change in our social arrangements. I'm afraid that this type of thinking is why we cannot get rid of disposable plastic. Ultimately, it is magical thinking.
People who don't know much about technology seem to think of it as some sort of black box that we can pull all sorts of amazing things out of----if we just want to hard enough. But the people who really do technology---engineers and scientists---live in a very different world. That world is governed by mathematics and limits. In that world many things are theoretically possible but functionally impossible because of the costs. The great thing about plastic is that as long as we have cheap oil it allows us to create a huge amount of products that are so cheap that they can be used by almost everyone.
Remove that cheap oil and the technologies that flow from them, like plastic, and you dramatically lower people's standard of living (but not, necessarily, their quality of life.) That is why our economic and political systems will put up enormous opposition to any push that wants to get rid of disposable plastic.
I once sat at lunch with a deputy Minister in my province and he told me about the way the soft drink companies had pressured the government into giving up on refillable glass bottles. As an inducement, they offered to fund a recycling program---which they stopped funding once we were totally committed to aluminium cans and PET bottles and couldn't go back to refillable glass. But if we hadn't, then there would have been complaints over the free trade agreement and consumer outrage over the high price of refillables.
I am old enough to remember a little bit about what it was like to live in a world without plastic. We raised and canned all our own food when I was a child. We had refillable bottles that we had to save and take back to the beer store, pop shop, etc. There was a lot of work involved in that stuff that made a lot of other things not possible. I personally think that the important things in life, the things that make it worth living, are not dependent on the convenience that flows from cheap plastic. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that we can live the same life we do now without cheap plastic.
As long as we keep looking for the "technofix" that keeps us from having to reassess how we live our lives, we are going to be stuck in the system that keeps bombarding us with stuff like disposable plastic.
I understand that this seems absolutely daunting to people. That's why so many folks are trying to make "baby steps" by focusing on one, small "doable thing". That's fine, looking at the big picture can be bleak. But so many folks are so fixated on the "baby steps" that they have totally forgotten about the "big picture". And for lots of bystanders, looking at and participating in the "baby steps" becomes a way of distracting themselves from the "big picture". At that point, the baby steps approach can become part of the problem. Isn't that a part of what "Green Washing" is?
By all means, if someone has an idea of creating a particular product that will allow us to walk more lightly on the earth, fine. But just be aware that while you are doing that, someone else is creating another product that stomp even harder on the earth. That's why we all need to be questioning big picture issues.
If anyone is interested, James Howard Kunstler has written an entertaining book titled _Too Much Magic_ that deals with the problems of the technofix vision. There's also a very interesting blog titled "Do the Math" that is worth reading. Written by a Physicist, it tries to explain to lay people how mathematical analysis shows that a great many commonly held ideas about our energy and environmental problems are totally unfeasible, if not flat out impossible.
1 year, 8 months ago on What Will It Take To Solve the Plastic Pollution Problem?
Certainly that comes under the heading of "Do all the other stuff people suggest----". I'd also say that increased costs dramatically cut down on the number of people having children. But having said that, I think that there needs to be something like a "culture war" around reproduction. The big thing is that people see it as a personal choice when it really isn't, it has huge impact on the planet.
I remember sitting in a diner listening to three elderly women talk about their children. They were proud, proud, proud of the number of children and grand children they had. I'm not trying to cast stones at these people, but there is a "meme" in society that says that having children is a very good thing and I think it needs to be actively discouraged.
It would take a huge amount of heat off the environment if we had a dramatic population crash because of a collective decision to shrink family size. It would also be a lot nicer for all and sundry than having a population crash because of famine, disease, war and general environmental collapse.
There are only a few ways to stop the use of disposable plastic.
1: Raise the cost to the point where it changes behaviour. This couldn't happen without a tremendous disruption of the economy. This means lots of people losing their jobs, business people losing their lives savings, people losing their homes, bankruptcy, governments losing tax revenues, so they would cut programs to help the poor and disadvantaged.
2: Pass laws that make disposable plastic illegal. This would also cause big problems in the economy. It would also cause big trade problems as free trade deals would be affected. (My province's refillable bottle law was destroyed because of free trade with the USA.) Again, poverty, bankruptcy, etc.
The reason why environmental problems are so damned intractable is because the free market is "free", which means it doesn't really give a good gosh darn about the environment. But the free market is also really good at creating wealth for people---not just private wealth, but also public wealth that gets redistributed through the welfare state. (The problems we have now with wealth stratification, etc, have come about because our democratic culture has become moribund and let the wealthy take over government----I don't think it's an intrinsic feature of a liberal democracy, but Marxists would disagree. But even Karl Marx believed that capitalism was the "goose that laid the golden egg".) This is why reactionaries have some truth on their side when they complain that environmentalists are all "socialists". There is an intractable contradiction between the free market and the environment.
How are we going to get rid of disposable plastic? It will probably involve a very long struggle, or, a very quick change after an economic collapse. I would suggest, however, that there are political and social solutions that will probably speed up the process.
1 Bring in a carbon tax. This will put a price on the cost of everything we do. If you do that, you may eventually get people to change their behaviour. People are finally buying energy efficient cars and taking public transit now that the cost of gasoline has gone up.
2 Stop having children!!!!!! There are far, far, far, far, far too many people in the world. Population growth is an accelerant that makes all environmental problems worse. I know that people's hormones drive them into a reproductive frenzy, but our society has to create
pressure on individuals to stop the reproduction. The only way I can think of to stop this behaviour (short of the Chinese option) is to start shaming people who have more than one child. Having a second child is worse than driving a Hummer!!!!!! Having none is better than riding a bike!!!!!
3 Get off your asses and get involved in politics on the local, state and federal level. Most environmentalists will not do this because they think of all negotiations and compromise as being "selling out". Really, what this is is an unwillingness to learn how to get along with other people. The reason why we have to compromise is because other people look at things differently than you. If you disagree, you have to roll up your sleeves and try to persuade them to change----not walk away in a huff because "they don't understand" or "they are knuckleheads". IT WILL NOT BE EASY, IT WILL BE A LIFE'S WORK, IT WILL NEVER BE FINISHED----GET OVER IT. THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A HUMAN BEING RIGHT NOW.
Do all the other stuff that people will suggest too as much as you can----.