Will the US ban the use of single-use plastics like England, India, Hong Kong and other countries?

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Plastic pollution is not only an environmental issue, Northeastern experts say, but an important public health issue.

Madhavi Venkatesan, associate teaching professor of economics at Northeastern University, is convinced that human convenience is an expense the environment cannot afford.

That is why she founded Sustainable Practices — an environmental action group in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she lives — and spearheaded the Cape Plastic Bottle Ban initiative, raising awareness of how single-use plastic bottle consumption affects the environment and human health.  

“We’re paying for that convenience product through intergenerational time,” she says. “But future generations yet unborn will still be paying for the fact that we consume them today. Plastic does not degrade into natural substances.”

Venkatesan’s group achieved municipal bans on single-use plastic bottles in all 15 towns of Cape Cod. Now, Sustainable Practices is focused on banning all non-carbonated, non-flavored water in single-use plastic bottles under a gallon, as well as single-use plastic cutlery and tableware.

Similar restrictions have been made in other cities and towns throughout the United States. Meanwhile, some countries such as England, India, Chile, Rwanda, Kenya and New Zealand have passed national bans on some single-use plastic products, such as plastic bags or cutlery.

In Hong Kong, a ban on Styrofoam products and single-use utensils — plastic plates, spoons, forks, knives and straws — went into effect on April 22, Earth Day. Plastic food containers and cups are still allowed, but those are expected to be added to the ban next year.

From left, Maria Ivanova, director of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and Madhavi Venkatesan, associate teaching professor of economics at Northeastern. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University and Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

In Canada, the government announced a new plastics registry on Monday. Makers of plastic packaging, electronics and other single-use products will be required to report annually how much plastic they produce and where those products end up.

What will it take to ban single-use plastic products in the U.S.?

Venkatesan says it’s about the government putting the environment before the interests of businesses that rely on plastics — and the public will follow.

Although about two dozen states in the U.S. have introduced plastic bag bans, there is no national ban on plastic products of any kind.

Federal regulation of plastics needed, expert says

Maria Ivanova, director of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, says the U.S. needs to introduce a federal regulation of plastics.

“Then it will have to happen across all 50 states,” she says.

Bans such as Hong Kong’s are the first step in eliminating as much plastic as possible from modern life, says Ivanova, who is helping negotiate a treaty to end plastic pollution between 193 member countries in the United Nations Environment Assembly.

“Smoking was cool, and there were so many ads about smoking,” she says. “And then people learned that smoking is bad for their health not only if they smoke, but also if they inhale secondhand smoke.” 

Businesses are often motivated by profits, Venkatesan says, and the U.S. has a pro-business economy.

“The only reason why we have so many convenience products … is that’s what causes growth in our economy,” she says. “Maybe we need to rethink how we value our economy because growth is actually killing us.”

Once a single-use plastic product is made available to the public, Venkatesan says, it is very hard to pull it off.

“A larger proportion of the population will just do whatever is accessible to them,” Venkatesan says. “They’re not really thinking about it.”

Written by Alena Kuzub ~

Read the original article here ~

Article source Northeastern Global News ~ 

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