FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Plastic Free

by KARL GROSSMAN

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week announced that he would push for a ban on polystyrene food packaging. “One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never biodegrades is Styrofoam—something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without,” he said in his 2013 State of the City address.

Congratulations to the mayor for an important environmental crusade and good luck as those with vested interests attempt to block his initiative.

For what Mayor Bloomberg is doing is not new in the New York Metropolitan Area. Suffolk County on Long Island, where I live, enacted the first-in-the-nation ban on the use of polystyrene food containers back in 1988. That was 25 years ago! And what a battle it was.

Mobil and Amoco, oil companies that produce the light, heat-resistant containers, mounted huge advertising campaigns against the Suffolk measure. Polystyrene is made of oil. The Society of the Plastic Industry fought the bill. Lobbying of Suffolk legislators was intense.

McDonald’s was deeply involved. I vividly recall executives of the fast-food chain appearing before the Suffolk County Legislature asserting that without these “clamshell” containers, the Big Mac as we know it would be no more. These containers were necessary, they said, to keep the Big Mac warm.

The measure passed and was signed into law. And people have been able to live quite well in Suffolk without the banned polystyrene food containers. They were never necessary other than to profit vested interests. And the Big Mac remains alive and well in Suffolk, still warm.

To be precise, Styrofoam is the trademark name of the Dow Chemical Company for the polystyrene foam it manufactures. The correct general term for the substance is polystyrene. And Mayor Bloomberg will no doubt soon find out about this for Dow is very up-tight about the use of the word Styrofoam to identify polystyrene foam.

I wrote a book a number of years ago about chemical dangers and was asked to speak at Delta College in Midland, Michigan, the corporate headquarters of Dow. I recall a lecture organizer advising me before I took to the rostrum that there would be Dow representatives in the audience and if I used the word Styrofoam “Dow will freak out” and I and Delta College could expect letters from Dow lawyers.

The Suffolk measure—which stuck to the word polystyrene—stressed how it constitutes “a threat to the environment in the County of Suffolk by causing excessively rapid filling of landfill space or, if incinerated, by the possible introduction of toxic byproducts into the atmosphere.” http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Suffolk-Co-NY-Ban.htm

The case against polystyrene is very strong. It takes centuries to biodegrade. Poisons are emitted if it’s incinerated. It’s a major component of plastic waste—including debris in the ocean. Polystyrene is lethal to any bird or sea creature that swallows a significant quantity. Also, chemicals in polystyrene migrate from packaging into food and there are health concerns for people. Moreover, as the Suffolk law stresses—there are “available substitutes.”

The current program in the TV series I have hosted for 22 years, Enviro Close-Up, is “Plastic Free with Beth Terry.” Enviro Close-Up is syndicated by Free Speech TV on 200 cable systems across the U.S., on the satellite TV networks, DirecTV and Dish, and on the Internet. Ms. Terry is the author of “Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.”

She tells on the program of the “epiphany” which caused her to become a crusader against plastics—learning about the death of “huge numbers” of birds caused by the North Pacific Gyre, also known as “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This is a gigantic deposit of plastic debris—a lot of it polystyrene—floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “Some people say it’s the size of the United States,” says Ms. Terry.

The Enviro Close-Up features graphic video of this toxic situation. And it provides Ms. Terry’s advice about how we can live with a minimum of plastic. You can view the program online.

Since the Suffolk ban was enacted, cities and other counties and municipalities all over the United States especially in California—as well as Toronto, Canada and several cities overseas including Paris, France—have followed up with similar bans on polystyrene food packaging.

It would be great if New York City joins in—but that will require Mayor Bloomberg  surviving the gauntlet which now will be laid down by polystyrene promoters.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

More articles by:

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail