Cheer up, plastics processors. Not everyone in the world is pushing to ban plastic bags, water bottles and burger clamshells. This column from Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business (the state's Chamber of Commerce) suggests that banning plastic products would be a mistake. Still, I wonder how plastics processors and suppliers feel about one of the alternatives that he suggests: putting deposits on products like water bottles, and charging retail customers for plastic bags, and using the money for various eco-minded purposes. Here's an excerpt from the column:
We depend on plastics for millions of essentials we use daily. Just think of a hospital without sterile plastic tubing or syringes. While no legislator in Olympia is suggesting a petroleum-product ban, before there is hasty action to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, we ought to think about what we would do without them. The bottom line is we need to reduce greenhouse gases and our dependence on foreign oil suppliers. Recycling and reusing products is a key part of that strategy. And, it saves money. For example, in 2006, Safeway stores in California diverted over 85 percent of their total solid waste from landfill disposal resulting in 207,190 tons of recycled materials. Safeway also saved $24,589,320 in disposal costs and has become a consistent winner in the California's Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP). Safeway also purchased enough wind energy to become the fourth largest retail use of renewable energy in the nation. Based on EPA estimates, Safeway's renewable purchases cut carbon dioxide emissions by 121 million pounds which is a marketing plus for the company. Businesses are eliminating waste because their customers are more environmentally aware. That is a positive step forward, and it saves money-money they can invest in new stores, factories and workers. It is the American way to solve a problem by allowing people to make good choices - and put an extra buck in their pockets. The simple fact is market-based incentives are better than prohibition and punishmentI first spotted Brunell's column in the Vancouver, Wash., The Columbian newspaper. It's interesting that the paper regularly picks up this business-oriented perspective column. That's a good idea, and something that business groups in other parts of the country might want to suggest to their own local newspapers.