Readers Respond

Eliminating plastic waste takes more than recycling | READER COMMENTARY

Workers remove plastic bags and other non-recyclable objects during sorting at the Waste Management's CID Recycling Center on the Chicago's South Side on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. File.
(Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

Plastic pollution is a crisis in Baltimore. It permeates everything and travels throughout the food web into wildlife and humans. It comes from fossil fuels and contributes to climate change at every stage in its life cycle, from the fracked gas it comes from through its industrial processing to the emissions and chemicals it releases over the decades it takes to break down.

The “Every Bottle Back” initiative provides Baltimore with a one-time investment of $1.65 million, a tiny fraction of the real funding required year after year to combat plastic pollution (”Baltimore brings back recycling but more needs to be done,” July 8). The actual polluters are not consumers, but the bottlers themselves, companies that make billions of dollars a year. Incidentally, a recent pollution audit found that The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestlé to be the companies creating the most plastic pollution. Polluters start pollution, not the random litterbugs that those polluters spent so much money scapegoating. And today, as plastics fill our harbor and Chesapeake Bay, we need to demand that corporate polluters pay.


Scaling up recycling capability is a necessary piece of addressing waste, but it alone will not be an effective solution to eradicating plastic pollution. If nothing changes, new plastic production will surpass 400 million metric tons a year by 2040, releasing over 2 billion tons of greenhouse gases and leaking over 29 million tons into our environment. Even if we double our recycle rate in Baltimore, hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic will go to our landfill or will be incinerated. And we all should know that the Baltimore incinerator, according to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation study, found that the illness and ailments caused by air polluted by the incineration alone costs $55 million a year in health damage to residents.

In reality, the most impact-conscious choice is not just focusing on recycling single use plastic water bottles. It’s about taking planned steps toward eliminating the need for them to be made in the first place. We can help by supporting the federal “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.” This legislation pulls from the evidence-based success of state and local initiatives to reduce plastic. Other ways to help can be found with the nonprofit Green America in its mission to join the economic power of consumers, investors and businesses in real environmental progress.


Environmental champions must recycle, but must also hold polluters accountable to reduce the flow of plastic in the first place. Baltimore deserves better than a false narrative created by the beverage industry.

Dave Arndt, Baltimore

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