OPINION: Companies must work to reduce plastic pollution
Submitted by CAREN FITZPATRICK, ATLANTIC COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Those of us who live and work in Atlantic County may come from different backgrounds and don’t always share the same beliefs, but there are some core values that I hope we can all agree on.
Ultimately, we all want our community to be safe, we want our beaches and shared public spaces to be clean and beautiful, and we want our children to grow up in a healthy environment with clean air, food and drink. the water.
To achieve these goals, we must all work together to do our part, while recognizing that those with the largest environmental footprints have the greatest responsibility and must be held accountable.
It’s one of the reasons I welcome New Jersey law limiting most single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers – some of the most damaging, unnecessary and infuriating forms of pollution that various industries have allowed to become all too common.
I know the transition away from these familiar receptacles can be difficult, even frustrating, for some of our residents and businesses at first, but it is necessary. Millions of plastic bags end up choking our waterways and polluting our landfills every year, with disastrous consequences not only for our wildlife and ecosystems, but also for our own bodies. Plastic breaks down over time and the resulting microplastic particles end up in everyone’s air, water and food. How much, you ask me? It was valued that right now the average person is digesting the equivalent of a plastic credit card every week
It is important to recognize that we are not all equally responsible for the problem of plastic pollution. I know as well as anyone that it’s virtually impossible to walk out of a grocery store today without plastic somewhere in your order. The simple truth is that there isn’t always an alternative to plastic for the items we need, and we can’t blame ourselves for that failure. Instead, it’s the fault of the industries that continue to manufacture – and profit from – plastics. While our individual actions to reduce plastic use can make a difference, we will never truly solve the plastic pollution crisis without tackling plastic production.
But while the rest of society struggles to wean itself off plastics, chemical and fossil fuel companies are plans to produce even more. More plastic produced and sold means more that will end up in our landfills, our rivers, our oceans, the air our children breathe, the food we all eat. In Atlantic County, without expansion, our landfill will soon run out of space for all that garbage.
We also cannot recycle our solution to this problem. A lean 9 percent of all the plastic ever made has already been recycled, and according to one PBS/NPR investigation, the oil and gas companies that produce plastics knew all along that most plastics would never be recycled. But they tricked us, through deceptive advertising and public relations, into believing that they were.
“The industry sold an idea to the public that it knew wouldn’t work – that the majority of plastic could and would be recycled – while making billions of dollars selling new plastic to the world,” according to their report. .
Incidentally, these are the same oil and gas companies that also lied to the public for decades about the catastrophic climate damage – from rising seas to stronger storms – that they knew their fossil fuel products cause coastal communities like ours.
These polluting companies are using their money and lobbying power to block policies that would tackle climate change and move away from fossil fuels, and they are now doing the same to protect their plastic company. Countries around the world are exploring a global treaty to limit plastic production, but it has been reported that lobbyists from groups like Shell and ExxonMobil are doing everything in their power to block it – and continue to flood our communities with their plastic pollution.
That’s not a reason to stop acting locally, it’s a reason to do more. Banning single-use plastics in New Jersey is an important step. Making smart consumer choices, voting with your dollar, and investing in more environmentally friendly products and businesses are others.
But as we all do our part to make Atlantic County cleaner and safer for everyone, it’s time for more businesses to step up and do their part. And if some still insist on blocking the solutions, it will be time for public officials to do our part to hold them accountable.