First, identify the problem

Bloomberg’s opinion piece “How to Solve the Plastic Crisis” caught my eye today. It’s worth reading in its entirety. What I like about this piece is that it first works to identify the problem and then offers possible solutions to that specific problem. Not feel-good, just practical.

Let’s break down the problem.

When: Per a 2015 study described in Science Magazine…

Who: …eight countries (China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, and Malaysia)…

What: …contribute an estimated 60+ percent of the plastic waste…

Where: …polluting the oceans.

What do those countries have in common? The majority of their people “lack access to garbage collection, modern landfills and incineration.” This is a possible why, which gives a starting point for a solution: “Improve regular old trash collection. A recent study by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment found that boosting trash collection rates to 80 percent in just five Asian countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — could reduce ocean plastic waste by a whopping 23 percent over a decade.”

What is probably not the answer? Banning free plastic bags (or, worse yet, straws!), even in these eight countries. Note China’s lack of success in that area (the link is also in the Bloomberg article). Certainly Kroger’s recent announcement that it would voluntarily ban plastic bags at their checkout counters in the U.S. by 2025 won’t make a lick of difference in solving the problem of oceanic plastic and may have a negative environmental impact. But, hey, they’ll feel good, right?

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