I've spotted a few plastics-related stories on other news sites in the past couple of weeks that are worth sharing — at least in part because of the reaction they got from readers.
First, the Los Angeles Times editorialized on the plastic bag ban debate on Feb. 25 in the column “Californians must show their resolve on plastic-bag ban.”
The column frames the issue as an environmental battle, writing: “Reducing air pollution, conserving water, combating climate change and preserving open space all require sacrifice, and in many cases they also require battles with entrenched industries whose interests are at odds with environmental goals.
“If Californians can't manage to ban single-use plastic bags — taking on the industry that manufactures them and accepting the minor inconvenience involved — it doesn't speak well of the state's ability to confront the bigger environmental challenges that lie ahead.”
I like how the column foreshadows what California residents are going to face between now and the referendum in November 2016 — “an onslaught of advertising aimed at persuading them that the plastic-bag ban is a tax — which it's not — and that the industry would face massive job losses without the bags. It won't.”
But the best reason to read this column is for the reader comments.
Some latched on to a point that was barely mentioned in the column — that the proposed ban would not apply to the plastic bags that protect newspapers.
In addition to pointing out the hypocrisy of a newspaper that uses plastics bags editorializing against them, one reader wrote: “They could use hemp bags instead. Then they could be recycled by smoking them for a mild high and the number of subscribers would go way up. Problem solved.”
Next, James Hamblin of The Atlantic interviewed John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig coffee K-Cup, for a March 2 story on the environmental challenges posed by the single-serve coffeemaker.
Almost immediately I saw excerpts of the story on blogs and in other news stories.
The hook? Sylvan said: “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it” — and the “it” refers to founding Keurig and inventing the K-Cup.
It's a great little detail, but a small part of Hamblin's story. Any chance that he wouldn't feel as much regret if he'd sold the company for more than $50,000?
Politics and plastics
Finally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured Germantown, Wis., plastics injection molder Plastic Components Inc. in a Page 1 feature on March 9 headlined “Machines run the show at this factory.” (The web headline is slightly different.)
It's a good story (and a great photo) about a company that Plastics News readers know well. It's worth a read, for sure.
But once again, I'm drawn to the reader comments.
On both the story and the newspaper's Facebook page, readers quickly put a political spin on the story. Others framed it as a human vs. robots issue.
One wrote: “How long before the unions will want to organize the machines?” Another added: “I hope the machines go rogue and fill up the whole building with hot plastic!!”
If you take a look at the public's attitudes about plastics, it can be entertaining, enlightening — and sometimes a little frightening.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”