Straws are a distraction: how the plastics industry successfully got you to blame yourself for pollution

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As a checker, I can say 10¢ a bag is not enough to make people switch to bringing in their own bags.


It’s a blame-game variation on "privatise the profits and socialise the losses", from the same fine corporations and PR firms that brought us the original scheme.


Even though we’ve managed to exist this long, it’s obvious our blind spots are huge and easily manipulated by the morally bankrupt. And it’s not just on this topic. It’s everywhere. We are a fatally flawed species.


As a checker can you explain why they double bag everything and put like 2 items in each bag? I’m not blaming you but it’s gotten nuts. At least in NYC. (My theory is that a few people complain that they want double bags and it’s not worth the stress to guess and accidentally give an overly needy customer too few). I totally agree with the above article tho that expecting individuals to carry the blame for choices when often they have no choice, and letting off corporations and municipalities for waste in much larger quantities is ridiculous.


It was the first thing they did in France, the only way to reduce plastic bag consumption is prohibiting plastic bags.


Outright bans on shopping bags are a bit much IMHO. I have a fair number of secondary uses for those bags, although I use my reusable bags most times. It only takes a few trips to get enough bags for the year. When the stash of bags runs low I’ll skip bringing my reusable bags to the grocery store once.


Similar to how the term jay walking was promoted by the auto industry. “Cars were here first, so pedestrians should yield”, type of thing.


In my state they are working on banning plastic bags and styrofoam. Sadly, styrofoam/plastic is the best solution for many things where lightweight waterproof containers are needed. It also doesn’t address things that come in from outside where styrofoam is used as standard packing. I don’t mind bringing my own bags (currently canvas) to the store and reusing paper bags, but I really prefer plastic bags for things like cleaning the litterbox.

Someone recycled their plastic bags by using them as packing material in a box I got. That was 3 months worth of kitty litter scoopings!


Remember the three R : Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

We have to reduce the plastic production before thinking how reuse it.
And I’m pretty sure most of the secondary use could have been filled by something other than plastic. And even if you reuse, not everybody do or can.
We have to start to think about plastic as a exceptional material, too costly for the environment to be use in single use items.


I’m pretty sure the guy I saw, who opened his car door while stopped at a light and dumped all his trash in the street, bears some responsibility.

Whatever you may think of the plastics industry, the point stands: Don’t go tossing your garbage everywhere.


Blame a litterer, you will have 1kg less of plastic in the sea.
Blame the industry, you will have 1000tons less of plastic in the sea.




also I think agribusiness told me I was using too much water


Blaming the consumer is pointless when we have little choice but to consume plastics. I go grocery shopping and see the majority of products in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic. Even canned goods have a plastic liner inside. Manufacturers will listen if we stop buying, but it’s hard to boycott every food product.


When was the last time you saw a gallon of milk or juice in a waxed paper carton?


Interesting point. But it implies that effectiveness is more important than placing actual blame.

To borrow a meme: Why not both? I’m very much for industry finding ways to minimize impact. I had an argument with a roommate in college who was planning to work for Greenpeace. He claimed he woudl be saving the planet, while I, and engineer, would be ruining it. My response, which actually gave him pause, was that as an engineer, I’d have the power to make, for example, plastic bags that used half as much plastic. Working for Greenpeace, he wouldn’t have the power to make any change.

I’ve never actually been in a position to make such a dramatic impact, but I force engineers I work with to minimize the plastic they use and to use as benign a plastic as possible. Not going to save the world. But it’s an effort that industry should strive for.

And it doesn’t preclude asshats from putting trash in the garbage can where it belongs.


I do still see them, but less and less.

Several years ago I was trying to find some kind of 1/2 gallon sized glass juice container. I figured I’d just buy some juice or milk in an old style glass jug and upcycle it. Nope (to be fair there were some quart-sized juices out there, but with flimsy tops.) Eventually I found a place that sold juice in that style/size glass jug but makes you pay a deposit of a couple bucks (of course), so I finally just went out and bought a glass jug somewhere.


A 5p charge cut single use plastic bags by 90% in the UK.


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t let those dumb litterer off the hook. We agree on this point. But throwing your plastic in the trash can is not make it disappear. It will go in an incinerator or a landfill.

I’m just arguing there is a scale of responsibility, and as an individual you can’t do much but sensible regulation can. So maybe your friend did lobby for banning some use of plastic and maybe it will be effective, it was in the UE, many single use plastics products will be banned in 2021 thanks to lobbyist like Greenpeace.