The Nov. 21 column by As You Sow and Walden Asset Management (("Plastics industry executive wrong on several points,") stated a number of misleading arguments, including the role the Plastics Industry Association is playing in plastic bag legislation. To restate, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, is a self-funded entity that operates separately with its own membership and dues. We certainly agree with APBA in opposing efforts to ban plastic bags for a number of reasons, one being that bans don't address the problem of litter.
Having said that, the Plastics Industry Association shares the broader goal of minimizing plastic waste through expansion and modernization of infrastructure and recycling solutions, an approach we believe is more effective than taxing or penalizing customers by taking away sustainable options. Unmentioned by Walden and As You Sow is that every alternative to plastic bags, including reusable cloth bags and paper bags, comes with a significant environmental impact. In fact, product bans almost never solve the much larger and complex problems they're trying to fix — and can have even more detrimental lifecycle impacts on the environment.
A number of major independent studies confirm that to be the case with plastic bag bans. A "Life Cycle Assessment of Grocery Bags in Common Use in the United States" study by Clemson University in 2014 found that "these regulations and policies may result in negative impacts on the environment rather than positive." And more recently, the American Chemistry Council published a study on plastics that came to a similar conclusion. ACC said its "findings challenge common misperceptions around plastics and underscore that plastic is a versatile, efficient material that is helping to solve some of our greatest environmental challenges."
Ultimately, the efforts of Walden and As You Sow to pressure our member companies fall far short of a pragmatic and viable solution to the problem of plastic ocean waste.
We do agree that plastics should never end up as litter, whether it's on the streets, our parks and public spaces, or the oceans. This is a solvable problem that will require commitment at every level — local, state, federal, international — to promote the proper disposal of plastic waste and invest in new and existing recycling solutions that can greatly reduce plastic waste and create new products for consumers.
That's why the Plastics Industry Association is working with local policymakers to enhance and expand access to recycling, while directly supporting research that aims to find new ways to effectively recycle all plastic products. We've also put together an infrastructure advocacy proposal, which works to expand plastics recycling and promote domestic recycling infrastructure legislation at the federal level.
In short, the Plastics Industry Association and its members are doing the work to build a lasting solution to the problem of plastic waste and marine litter.
Bill Carteaux is president and CEO of the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association.