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Apr 10 2014

Plastic: worse than we thought

That plastic grocery bag you got at the store is something more than just an eyesore and a source of nasty chemicals, it’s also a magnet for accumulating more pollutants.

The ingredients that make up more than 50% of plastics are already deemed chemical hazards by the UN Globally Harmonized System. But as floating bits of trash, plastics pick up additional pollutants like pesticides, flame retardants and combusted oil. “We don’t know yet how long it takes plastic to fully break down, but it’s somewhere on the order of tens to thousands of years,” says Rochman. This means that plastic debris accumulates a multitude of toxic chemicals over potentially many, many years. This type of marine plastic is ending up as lunch for birds, fish and other animals.

The article goes on to detail specific effects of PAHs, PCBs, and PBDEs on medaka. It’s ugly. Now I just have to figure out a way to reduce plastic consumption at home — it’s painful how much of our food and other essentials are packaged up in plastic.

41 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    I usually bring a reusable grocery bag to stores and if not, I get paper only if it’s available.

  2. 2
    chimera

    I have wondered for years and have never been able to get an answer about GARBAGE BAGS. Is there an alternative to plastic?

    For the time being, I use as garbage bags those plastic bags they put your stuff in when you buy something. That way, they are at least used twice which is better than nothing but not a real solution.

  3. 3
    Jeff K

    A responsible government for the people (as opposed to our current megacorp/rich jerk controlled state) would regulate plastics so that only the safest end up being used in consumer goods and are designed to degrade or be burned safely. Burning isn’t an ideal situation, but better than enormous piles of garbage floating in the ocean, and could be used to fuel power plants, which are already burning coal/gas anyway.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    Seattle’s answer was to ban plastic grocery bags almost two years ago (the ban went into effect on July 1, 2012) and implemented a 15 cent surcharge on large, handled paper bags to encourage shoppers to buy their own, reusable bags (smaller paper bags can still be given for free.) This seems to have worked very well, as plastic grocery bags used to be a very large percentage of litter in the city. Of course, most of the reusable bags that most people buy are made of recycled plastic, but they are much less likely to be tossed aside. Things like plastic bags for fruits and vegetables are not banned, however, and they remain a problem.

    As for trash bags, I usually get one or two of the 15 cent paper bags a week: those work well enough for most kitchen items. The challenge for me is avoiding plastic wrap and foam packaging.

  5. 5
    machintelligence

    This may be a positive virtue. Make filters out of these plastics and then bury them after use in sealed landfills lined with more plastic. The carbon in the plastics is removed from the carbon cycle (and hence the atmosphere) for millennia and the trapped pollutants would presumably break down in a much shorter time.

  6. 6
    glidwrith

    Yes, the plastic is everywhere and it takes a while to work it out of the house. Re-usable plastic grocery bags instead of disposable is a major one. I switched to cloth napkins, eliminating both the plastic wrap and the waste of paper. I also make my own bread, so that is one less wrapping (though I haven’t succeeded with hot dog or hamburger buns!).

    The in-store little bags I just don’t use unless I’m dealing with bulk items (then I save and re-use them). You need them for only the time it takes to get home. Load up your cart without them then just use your re-usable bag to get home. You actually get less mold and mildew on your veggies because the plastic bag isn’t keeping in the moisture.

    I use coconut oil for both cooking and hair conditioner – one less plastic bottle.

    For the guys – I’ve read about making your own shaving cream.

    Make your own desserts from scratch.

    I’ve tried to grow soapwort to get a natural soap product called saponin – but I guess my climate is too dry. That would also get rid of the soap paper and plastic wrappings.

    Basically, try to avoid highly packaged foods. Most of the time that means highly processed foods and if you eat fresh veggies, fruits and unprocessed meats, you’ve already gotten rid of a lot.

  7. 7
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    …it’s painful how much of our food and other essentials are packaged up in plastic.

    I get so pissed off with unnecessary packaging. My sister bought some sort of biscuit that was individually wrappped in plastic and then sold in a plastic-and-cardboard box, and it sent me off on like a five minute rant. It’s just so fucking unnecessary!

    Dad buys little pots of ready-minced garlic sometimes… they come in a little glass jar with a big cardboard collar around it, which contains all of the same information that is on the label already on the jar. Why is the cardboard there? What’s the point?

    Another thing, in UK supermarkets, when you buy loose fruit and veg (sold by weight), there are dispensers of little clear plastic bags to put the loose fruit and veg in. Why? Why not brown paper? What’s wrong with that? Jesus!

    /rant

  8. 8
    glidwrith

    A few more things:

    Those plastic sandwich wrappers? Gone – get yourself a set of tupperware to cart your lunch around in.

    Last – plastic water bottles. Get a glass bottle and re-fill as needed or re-use the plastic one if you must. One thing I noticed after going to a glass bottle was the taste. If I cracked open a plastic water bottle the taste of plastic is overwhelming. With all of the reports of plastic polymerizers seeping into our food (like BPA), I’m very happy to make this change.

  9. 9
    doubtthat

    This was one of the more exciting tech stories I’ve read in a while:

    The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels—diesel, for example—that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas, naphtha (a solvent), gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils such as engine oil and hydraulic oil also can be obtained from shopping bags.

    http://ecowatch.com/2014/02/17/convert-plastic-bags-to-diesel-fuel/

    Still burning carbon if those fuels are used, but an incentive to bring in plastic bags would be a nice step forward.

  10. 10
    stuartsmith

    @7 – If I had to guess about the loose fruit and vegetables going in plastic bags instead of paper, I’d say it’s because they are regularly misted with water, which causes paper bags to break, but not plastic ones.

  11. 11
    stuartsmith

    I’m curious… When they describe plastic bags as a magnet for pollutants, how literal are they being? That is, could we construct huge rafts of plastic and use them to dredge the sea for pollution?

  12. 12
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @stuartsmith

    In my experience they tend to be dry, but that may not be the case everywhere. You may have a point.

    What’s the impact of waxed paper? Presumably it takes slightly longer to biodegrade, but how long in total?

  13. 13
    chigau (違う)

    The “wax” in waxed paper is a petroleum product.

  14. 14
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I’ve got some tulle ? mesh bags inside a little pouch bag that I take along to the shops for my fruit and vegetables. They can still breathe and can be rinsed inside the bags.

  15. 15
    Terra Heilman

    For those mentioning paper over plastic, please be aware that paper bags require more resources to manufacture than plastic and so, when you take a life cycle view of them, their footprint is actually larger on the planet. I’ve worked in waste for the better part of a decade and there’s no easy answers. Well, actually, there is: Reduction is always better than reuse and reuse is always better than recycling. Recycling is better than landfill or litter. I was so glad to read PZ yearning for reduction, rather than just recyclability.

    If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer them. This is my passion topic. I’ve written a lot about plastic and other types of waste on my blog. Cheers!

  16. 16
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I always thought only Americans in movies use paper bags for carrying groceries (so that they can conveniently break, just as a handsome neighbor walks by and then helps gather the oranges).

    Use a god damned cloth bag! You can wash it, and use it for quite long if it’s of some quality. Maximum of convenience and minimum of waste (environmental and financial).

  17. 17
    robro

    Similar to Seattle, San Francisco banned plastic grocery bags several years ago and require sellers to charge 10¢ for a paper bag. Some stores (Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery) even give you a little credit for bringing your own bags. Upshot: lots of people bring their own totes to carry home the groceries.

    These changes had an impact on garbage disposal…no paper bags for the compost or recycling but our garbage service says no need to bag it up, just wash the cans out sometimes.

    Dog walking is another matter.

    There’s a movement here to ban water sold in plastic bottles.

  18. 18
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @chigau #13

    Oh FFS, of course it is.

  19. 19
    gillt

    After two months, the tissue of fish fed ‘marine’ plastic had higher levels of the chemical ingredients of plastic (PAHs), pollutants known to stick to plastic (PCBs), and additives to plastics (PBDEs).

    Not only are PAHs–a product of crude oil–carcinogens and cause liver damage, but at even lower doses (less than a tenth of a part per billion) cause pericardiac edemas, and other gross developmental abnormalities in fish developing hearts, including fractional shortening (think blood pressure). And not just in model medakas and zebrafish, but in mahi, trout, salmon, tuna, herring, etc.

  20. 20
    Travis

    I always thought only Americans in movies use paper bags for carrying groceries (so that they can conveniently break, just as a handsome neighbor walks by and then helps gather the oranges).

    I grew up in Atlantic Canada and I remember groceries coming in paper bags fairly often in the 1980s, but that changed pretty quickly. The only time I see paper bags in Ontario is at the LCBO, which I assume is a holdover from the past, or they just want to make sure people bring their own bags, because paper bags are not ideal for heavy bottles and cans. You can still get plastic bags in most stores, they are not banned, but usually there is a 5 cent discount for using your own, and I prefer to use my own anyway. Plastic bags add up, even though I usually use my own, I still have a massive collection of bags from the times I forget.

  21. 21
    wondering

    @Terra

    If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer them. This is my passion topic. I’ve written a lot about plastic and other types of waste on my blog. Cheers!

    Brilliant! Do you have suggestions for managing dirty plastics? I’m thinking old tarps that have started to tear from weather exposure, etc. I’ve been using them as weed suppressants after their lives as protective tarps were over, but not unexpectedly they’re continuing to break down. While there are places locally that I can recycle soft plastics, dirty tarps are not an option. Would the best thing be to bury them when their last remnant of usefulness disappears?

    Is it even possible to find a canvas tarp? Maybe from a sailmaker or something? I assume that would be better.

  22. 22
    Kagehi

    A responsible government for the people (as opposed to our current megacorp/rich jerk controlled state) would regulate plastics so that only the safest end up being used in consumer goods and are designed to degrade or be burned safely.

    Sigh.. Wish it was that simple. There are about 3 different types that can be used in, for example, 3D printing, because they a) stay hot enough they stick together, instead of “laminating”, and even then they don’t always do that right, and b) don’t shrink the second they cool even slightly (which will cause even the ones that might normally stick to the prior layer to delaminate). There is one that is biodegradable, but you have to paint it, after, to seal it, and you absolutely have to avoid getting it damn, or storing it someplace that is, because what makes it degradable is that its basically water soluble.

    There are **no other** options for plastics to use for general stuff in this category, and most of the stuff made with it are things that require limited flexibility, but not overly brittle, but.. its more brittle than the #1 form of plastic used for nearly everything you use.

    Plastic bags, and water bottles are the same class of plastics, usually one specific plastic. They a) stretch, up to a point, b) shrink when they cool, and c) can only be used in injection molding, due to the shrink problem. This is what is used for plastic bags, water bottles, most cases on consumer goods, your tupperware, etc. You can color it easily, it tends to be very flexible, so will bend, rather than break, etc. Yes, there are some “minor” variations, but I am not sure they even *have* a biodegradable one, and virtually every single thing you want to use it for would be impossible, since, again, the biodegradable ones are all water soluble.

    Outside of this range you get the super flexibles, which are pretty useless for “most” things, and the super brittles, which are also useless for 99.9% of all things, and some specialty ones that are high heat resistant, or have other properties, which make them 100% necessary for the use they are made for, but also make them harder to recycle, and, over all, more toxic.

    I seriously don’t see a way out, short of someone making everything out of paper again, and using wax as a sealer, like they do with the smaller milk cartons, or going back to glass, which, I can tell you as someone who has to deal with dropped bottles in retail, is the single worst bloody idea imho, of all time, especially if the contents is an oil, of *any* kind. The stuff, no matter what you use, takes vastly longer to clean up, you never get all of it, no matter how hard you try, and it only “is” a problem because the container was so fragile in the first place. Oh, and.. glass is really seriously not good to use for “large” containers, besides.

    But, the single biggest problem, frankly, is the simple reality that the US has its head up its ass so badly about the whole thing that when someone says, “We recycle bags”, or bottles, or anything else, especially if they don’t also make them, and possibly in some cases, even if they do, there is an extremely high probability that the stuff will just end up in a landfill anyway, because no one actually wants to pay to recycle the stuff, when the “drill baby drill” mentality makes it so much cheaper to just make millions of tons more of it, then bury the result some place.

    In any cases, there are clear reasons why everyone uses it, and most of them come down to the simple reality that you can color, or cater, the plastic to just about any use you need, very easily, while.. pretty much everything else out there, except metal, you can’t. And metal… doesn’t handle stresses, like constant bending, and other things nearly well enough.

    That said.. Some of the lengths taken to make packaging, and other overuse of the stuff…. is just.. unacceptable, unless you find you have to choose between actually owning something, or not owning it, and the latter isn’t a choice you can live with, for what ever reason. Companies.. certainly don’t seem to give a frak if they still a 4 oz piece of, say, computer hardware, in a 20 oz plastic wrapper, instead of being sane about it. And.. part of that is the same old, “We don’t want to pay for security, or risk insulting the potential customer, prior to clear evidence they are stealing the thing, or have anyone who can actually apprehend them, if they do get it out of the box, and stuff it in a pocket, or.. Its just easier (and of course, cheaper, and less law suity) to put it in a plastic box you need a chain saw to open!”

  23. 23
    Kagehi

    Urr.. “getting it damp,” lol

  24. 24
    brett

    I still use plastic ziplock baggies for when I bring a lunch to work, because the alternatives aren’t great. But at home, I’ve mostly stopped using plastic containers in favor of Pyrex glass ones (they’re easier to microwave too).

  25. 25
    ChasCPeterson

    a few thousand words’ worth:
    exhibit A
    exhibit B
    exhibit C

  26. 26
    Terra Heilman

    @brett You can find some good alternatives (If you like bags) online. May I suggest these: https://www.etsy.com/shop/bugbabydesigns

    @Wondering Unfortunately, there’s no real good end-of-life solution for many of the products we currently have. I would say a plastic tarp would fit squarely in that category.

    Here’s a blog post I did about a year ago that addresses some of the complex issues surrounding end-of-life decisions for plastics and what you can do about it: http://reusing.blogspot.com/2013/07/why-wont-you-guys-take-my-rigid.html

    (Sorry about the links. I suck with HTML tags.)

  27. 27
    Terra Heilman

    @Kagehi,

    While I respect that you obviously have some background in plastics, (I’m guessing that background is gleaned from 3d printing) you clearly don’t in recycling plastics. Whenever I hear someone say “there is an extremely high probability that the stuff will just end up in a landfill anyway” I get rage face. Why would a garbage hauler send around separate trucks if they were going to throw the stuff in the landfill? That makes no kind of sense.

    Yes, some of the stuff is ultimately going to end up in a landfill, because it didn’t belong in the recycling cart in the first place. (user error, not hauler error, I’ll point out) However, the a large portion of the stuff you put in your recycling cart is truly recycled.

    So, why then, do we have the problem mentioned in PZ’s original article and what the heck can we do about it? Well, the problem exists because there’s so much of it. Even if you diverted, recovered or landfilled 99% of it, when you have a REALLY large amount of stuff (garbage & recyclables) some of it is going to end up where it doesn’t belong, like the ocean. What can we do about it? As I’ve mentioned in previous comments and multiple blog posts on this topic, reduction of consumption of the material is really the only thing we have any control over. If you don’t buy the stuff in the first place, you don’t have to worry about the end-of-life decisions of the stuff. @Kagehi makes a good point, though about there being a lack of any real good alternatives for many applications. (Beyond the breaking glass bottle scenario mentioned in your comment-glass weighs more and thus has a worse footprint when looking at transportation costs and associated resources.)

    Finally, I’ll just say that talking about end-of-life decisions for our stuff almost entirely misses the point and that is that the vast majority of the environmental footprint of any given thing is represented by steps in the process that happen WAY before you purchase the thing. Manufacturing (and its associated resources) is where the most environmental cost shows up. So, do your best to recycle well, but if you want to really make a difference, start asking yourself if you truly need the thing in the first place.

    Source: Waste Reduction Specialist for the better part of a decade.

  28. 28
    Chelydra

    @#6 glidwrith

    I’ve tried to grow soapwort to get a natural soap product called saponin – but I guess my climate is too dry.

    Keep in mind that soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a potentially invasive weed outside of its Eurasian native range.

  29. 29
    unclefrogy

    it is my understanding that plastic trash bags are not preferred by operators of land fills. The bags of refuse take up much more room than lose trash because of the air trapped inside.
    it is a cost thing including any transition costs that prevents almost complete recycling of the waste stream we generate now. If it was considered a priority it would happen.
    Until then I will still try to reduce my personal waste generation where ever I can. best I can do.
    uncle frogy

  30. 30
    Susannah

    Saltwater invertebrates aquarium owner here. We are warned never, never ever, to store water or house inverts in any plastic container that has previously been in contact with detergents. It seems that detergent penetrates the plastic, and later poisons the animals.

    Re: those photos in #25. I carry a plastic bag (recycled) to pick up plastic trash on the beach. It’s shameful how much people just casually discard, with no thought to the lives they’re endangering.

    Unfortunately, I can’t destroy the plastic trash, but I at least transport it to the nearest trash bin. (Usually very close; how much effort would it have been for the original users to walk the 20 steps to a bin, or drop their trash in it on the way home?)

  31. 31
    kreativekaos

    Now I just have to figure out a way to reduce plastic consumption at home — it’s painful how much of our food and other essentials are packaged up in plastic.

    Really, PZ, it isn’t that difficult,…. really. I (and no doubt many others) have been doing it for years.
    I must say that I almost find myself in a constant state of anger and frustration when I see, daily, so many people thoughtlessly, carelessly and unnecessarily tossing uncounted plastic water bottles, plastic fast food/grocery containers, BATTERIES (grrrr!) and perfectly recyclable cardboard and paper into the trash can, where it either goes to a landfill, incinerator or gets shipped to third world countries for disposal.

    I find myself taking over others’ responsibilities by making sure as many of their throwaways get to the recycling bin as possible. I truly irks me that grown, supposedly knowledgeable, educated adults are too lazy or apathetic to walk, in many instances, a few fucking steps over to the recycling container.
    The information and awareness is out there, both focused and direct as well as general and indirect. After 20 fucking years of scientific research, news coverage and leading examples, even in the corporate world, there’s no excuse. It really makes me want to dope-slap them into submission.
    (Thanks for your patience with my rant.)

  32. 32
    =8)-DX

    I think this issue is not one that can be overcome by personal responsibility – I recycle all my clean plastics and the lesser amount that goes in the mixed trash will probably go into some landfill rather than the general environment – I definitely don’t drop plastic bags on the street.

    But many people do – they just dump *disposable* plastic wrappers everywhere. It’s the same as with energy-saving lighbulbs here – it took the EU to get rid of the old lightbulbs, and it’ll take government action to mandate specific types of plastic for general consumption.

    Back to paper, tupperware and tin foil I guess.

  33. 33
    dobbshead

    designed to degrade or be burned safely

    Burning is actually not that bad for a lot of plastics. Polyethylene terephtalate (PET, plastic bottles), low and high density polyethylene (plastic bags, milk jugs), polystyrene, polylactic acid (cups, 3D printer materials) and many others can be burnt completely to form water and carbon dioxide. For these plastics, combustion is a serious alternative to storage in a landfill / biodegradation (which is just slower combustion). For these plastics we don’t need to ban them to reduce their environmental impact, we just need to burn them.

    Other plastics are less compatible with combustion. Polyvinyl chloride and nylons spring to mind, the first for halogen content and the other makes cyanide. Some of these, like PVC, can be recycled effectively while others can’t. If we’re going to think of banning some plastics over sustainability concerns, plastics that can’t be burned should come before those that can.

    For a perspective on the magnitude of plastic carbon footprints, global plastic production in 2012 is estimated at 288 million tonnes. For scale, 7831 million tonnes of coal was produced in 2012 and 2989 million tonnes of oil were produced in 2010. That means that, if we assume a roughly uniform mass density of carbon, plastics represent about 2.6% of all fossil carbon pulled out of the ground each year.

    So when it comes to carbon footprints, we should be more concerned with aircraft and power plants than with plastics. And since plastics provide material solutions for problems which are dramatically superior to the alternative in performance, we’re probably going to be stuck with them. Although, it would be nice if we didn’t make this in the process.

  34. 34
    Olav

    Glidwrith #6:

    For the guys – I’ve read about making your own shaving cream.

    No need. A simple fatty, foamy handsoap does the trick well enough. I use it for absolutely everything, including washing my hair (what’s left of it).

  35. 35
    David Whitlock

    Way for everyone to miss the forest for the trees.

    The PROBLEM here is the PAH, PCBs, PBDEs that are already in the environment and which get taken up by plastic. Those compounds are all lipid soluble, and will be taken up by organisms living in the environment as well, or better than they will be taken up from the ingestion of plastic that has been exposed to those compounds in the same environment the organism is living in.

    The problem is the toxics ALREADY IN THE ENVIRONMENT, not the plastic that traps the toxics from the environment and integrates the exposure over time so it is easier to measure.

    Is paper any better? Cellulose is pretty polar, so it won’t take up non-polar compounds the way that non-polar polyethylene will. But often, paper is treated with fire retardants such as PBDEs which can then get into the food that is wrapped with that paper, like butter.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3040599/

    The reason the chemical industry is so enamored with flame and fire retardants is because the Tobacco Industry lobbied the fire prevention industry to focus on fire proofing consumer materials so fires wouldn’t spread, so the elephant in the room of burning tobacco to supply a nicotine fix would be ignored.

  36. 36
    analog2000

    But what about dog walking and cat litter? If I couldn’t re-use plastic grocery bags, I would have to buy disposable trash bags, and is that really better? Paper isn’t an option because waste is frequently wet, and I agree that throughout its entire life cycle paper is not better than plastic. Between all the pets in the house and the kids, I often run out of plastic bags! I take a bunch from the recycling bin at the grocery store (the bin for plastic bags only) and use those.

    I suppose the solution would be to not have household pets, but how many people are going to be willing to do that?

    And is packing my lunch in Tupperware (itself a plastic) really helping? I will then have to wash the tupperware with potable water.

  37. 37
    anne mariehovgaard

    brett @ 24

    I still use plastic ziplock baggies for when I bring a lunch to work, because the alternatives aren’t great.

    I reuse plastic food containers. I have some 1 kg and 1/2 kg yogurt tubs I’ve been using for years; they’re great for salads and yesterday’s leftovers :)

  38. 38
    Kagehi

    While I respect that you obviously have some background in plastics, (I’m guessing that background is gleaned from 3d printing) you clearly don’t in recycling plastics. Whenever I hear someone say “there is an extremely high probability that the stuff will just end up in a landfill anyway” I get rage face. Why would a garbage hauler send around separate trucks if they were going to throw the stuff in the landfill?

    Image. The specific case I know of is the local city, who have a separate bin for placing things like bottles and things. While there “was” a place in town that took these, there isn’t any more. Various stupid legal issues mean that they couldn’t profit from it, by taking the plastics from here, into some place like California, where they give a damn about this stuff, and make anything off of it. Arizona itself doesn’t “do” recycling, as far as I know, in terms of places that do so, or, if there are any, they cater to large city areas, so its prohibitively expensive to ship the stuff any place, for the city. So, what has happened, instead, according to several people I know who work for the city waste department, is that the materials are picked up separately, but most, or all, of it end up right in the same dump site.

    However, the general public doesn’t know this, nor is there obvious proof of it, and there are enough people in the city who are environmentally conscious, or at least think they are, that it would likely prove really bad for the city, if it turned out it wasn’t being shipped, at high expense, to some place that actually does recycle it. The reason I believe this really is the case, and not just random rumors, is the fact that there really is a serious lack of recycling places in the US, in general, and one of the biggest problems with trying to get cities to implement them is that it often costs them more to ship the stuff than they get back for it. And, that is as much the case with aluminum as it is with plastics, if not even more so (hence the near total lack of those, including there being no one, except on company, who deals with “all” types of metals, in the town, which will even touch the stuff).

    So, you can be angry all you want about my saying what I did, but the reality is, not every part of the country gives a damn, or spends their money wisely, or cares more about doing what works, instead of what just looks good to those who would flip out, if no such program exists. Its even possible that, initially, they where doing things right, but.. we are talking about a city that, rather than renegotiating contracts, or just eliminating them entirely, are “keeping” a bunch of $45/hr mechanics on staff, for the city buses, then actually paying the local RV places to do the repairs (because the latter actually fix them). A city that “misplaced” a million dollars one year, then somehow “found” extra money in the same amount, hiding away in various departments. Who will spend almost as much money building stupid decorative metal something or others (basically rocks in metal cages) all over the place, while spending almost as much time denying business permits to people that might happen to compete with the ones already in the area (especially when they have an interest in the business being competed against). And, on, and on.

    I don’t have much objection to the idea that some clown among them might have pointed out, “If we are losing money anyway, then we could lose less, by just still picking the stuff up, but not shipping it any place.”

    I… frankly, am just jaded enough to wonder, when people like fracking companies can have their “disposal” people pocketing money to take away highly dangerous radium laced filters, and instead dumping them in empty buildings, and others such insanities, that something which a city like mine, too far away from a real recycler, is basically paying to get rid of it, with next to zero chance of turning a profit on the result, may.. never actually make it to where its supposed to be going. But, I could be completely wrong that this is happening, as you propose. I am not in a nice, sane, state, like California, so my perspective on things may be a bit… skewed.

  39. 39
    Kagehi

    Oh, and, yeah, I read up on just what “is” usable for 3D stuff, and why some of it is a problem, when I decided to buy myself a printer kit. Still need to get the damn thing calibrated and stuff though, they made some odd decisions on how to make some parts in it (reversing some things, like switches, because it was easier to make 4 identical ones, than two left facing, and two right facing ones, thereby f-ing up one axis switch so badly that their instructions don’t work for it, and I just haven’t, since then, bothered to try to figure out how the hell to get it the right height from the base, never mind keep it “fixed” in place, instead of moving one me. As well as, frankly other annoyances in the design.) It was when looking to see if you could make your own spooled plastic to use that I found out that the class used in everything from water/milk bottles, to plastic bags, has, so far, proven impossible to print with.

    If it was.. Half the recycle bins in grocery stores would be raided for the stuff by people fiddling with this stuff. lol

    In principle, this is likely to be the main “path” for a lot of its “end of life”, as you put it, but.. only if someone figures out how to use that class of plastics to do it and/or comes up with some sort of, “Home 3D Injection Mold”, machine, which, given the dies you need to do that.. is.. very unlikely any time soon imho.

  40. 40
    ChasCPeterson

    Polyethylene terephtalate (PET, plastic bottles), low and high density polyethylene (plastic bags, milk jugs), polystyrene, polylactic acid (cups, 3D printer materials) and many others can be burnt completely to form water and carbon dioxide.

    Can be. Can be, but very often are not. At normal garbage-incinerator temperatures (i.e. <1000 C) combustion is incomplete and, for polystyrene especially, all kinds of weird and toxic volatile organics result.

  41. 41
    left0ver1under

    Why don’t people avoid plastic bags altogether? I carry a backpack nearly every day, and always to work. Packing groceries on the way home is easy, and backpacks are sturdy enough to last for years.

    Does anyone else use folding shopping carts? I take one if I’m planning a major trip to the supermarkets or the seattle-warehouse-store-that-shall-not-be-named. I find they last for years (5+ on my current one) if taken care of.

    At the supermarkets here in Taiwan, they don’t cut up the cardboard boxes that products come in. They leave the boxes flattened near the exit with rolls of tape, allowing customers to use those to carry groceries. Do stores in North America do that? Maybe they should try it.

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