"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Links - 26th April 2019 (1) (Plastic)

Plastic or paper: Which bag is greener? - "it "takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag."Unlike plastic bags (which the report says are produced from the waste products of oil refining) paper requires forests to be cut down to produce the bags. The manufacturing process, according to the research, also produces a higher concentration of toxic chemicals compared with making single-use plastic bags.Paper bags also weigh more than plastic; this means transportation requires more energy, adding to their carbon footprint, the study adds... paper bags needed to be reused at least three times [to have lower global warming potential than a plastic bag]... Paper bags are not as durable as bags for life, being more likely to split or tear, especially if they get wet.In its conclusion, the Environment Agency says "it is unlikely the paper bag can be regularly reused the required number of times due to its low durability"... Many people forget to bring their reusable bags on their weekly supermarket trip, and end up having to buy more bags at the till"
If you've used a paper bag you may realise that sometimes they can't even be used once, let alone 4 times

All About Bags - Paper Versus Plastic Bags - Which is More Environmentally Friendly? - "Plastic bags were invented as an alternative to paper grocery bags in the late 1970s to protect trees and prevent clear-cutting of our forests.
Plastic bags are a by-product of natural gas extraction and provide an environmental solution to the burn off of this gas during the refining process... The differences between paper and plastic strongly supports why bans don't work. In 2006, Taiwan rescinded a ban on plastic bags in their fast food sector. The ban led to an increase in the use of paper bags with a resulting massive increase in tonnage, waste management costs and greenhouse gas emissions"

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage? - "People in the cities with the bans used fewer plastic bags, which led to about 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says. This was particularly the case for small, 4-gallon bags, which saw a 120 percent increase in sales after bans went into effect. Trash bags are thick and use more plastic than typical shopping bags. "So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year.Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment... Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking."

The best and worst replacements for the single-use plastic bag - "Cotton bags must be reused thousands of times before they meet the environmental performance of plastic bags—and, the Denmark researchers write, organic cotton is worse than conventional cotton when it comes to overall environmental impact. According to the report, organic cotton bags have to be reused many more times than conventional cotton bags (20,000 versus 7,000 times), based on the assumption that organic cotton has a 30% lower yield rate on average than conventional cotton, and therefore was assumed to require 30% more resources, like water, to grow the same amount."
This is fascinating. Reusable bags are bad enough for the environment when climate change alone is considered. When water use, energy use and all other environmental impacts are taken into account they're even worse

Bans on plastic straws: Just another eco-fad that will soon fade - "the city of Santa Barbara, Calif., passed a new ordinance that could result in up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for restaurants who hand out plastic straws to patrons. Those penalties, which kick on a second violation of the ordinance, are cumulative — so handing out four straws to a single table could mean two years in jail for a restaurant owner who practices their own vigilante brand of drink justice... When Seattle banned plastic straws, it allowed an exemption for compostable plastic, but Santa Barbara went even further, allowing only straws made from paper, bamboo, or metal.Environmentalists argue that 500 million plastic straws per day are polluting our oceans, a number that appears to have come from a phone survey conducted by a 9-year old Vermont boy. In fact, studies estimate straws make up only about 0.02% of the plastic waste that makes it into the ocean or to coastlines. Further, the United States is only accountable for around 1% of the world’s marine plastic waste, far behind China at 28%. But of course, these types of meaningless bans aren’t about actually saving wildlife; they are simply the latest weapon in an arms race of smug self-regard. We saw this charade a decade ago when municipalities began to ban plastic bags out of environmental concern. As Reason Magazine reminds us, 10 states (including Wisconsin) had to deal with customer backlash by banning municipalities from banning plastic bags... businesses should probably keep some straws on hand for either disabled people who can’t drink directly from a cup or to aid servers who don’t want to spend time cleaning up spilled drinks from children"

Commentary: Banning Plastic Straws Could Make Pollution Worse - "manufacturing a disposable paper cup requires at least 20% more fossil fuel and almost 50% more electricity than a styrofoam cup does. Paper goods, the most likely alternative to EPS, create more waste and water and air pollution than EPS does. The California State Water Resources Control Board released a study concluding that “mere substitution would not result in reduced trash generation if such product substitution would be discarded in the same manner as the banned item.”There’s little difference between throwing away a styrofoam cup and a paper one, and paper products used for food handling are less recyclable than EPS products. They can’t be washed like EPS, and any food contamination makes them unrecyclable. Moreover, paper products frequently are thinly lined with plastic to make them sturdier and water-resistant... small businesses would bear the brunt of styrofoam bans. In fact, an MB Public Affairs study found that banning styrofoam in food service and drink containers in New York City would equate to a 94% tax. Since local eateries generate fewer sales than large chain restaurants, they have less wiggle room for compliance costs. As such, these bans are likely to have disproportionately negative consequences for small business owners. To address the problems caused by plastic pollution, it’s better to target its improper disposal than plastic itself. Most of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from countries that don’t have good systems for putting trash in landfills. Around 90% of the plastic in the oceans comes from just 10 rivers: eight are in Asia and two are in Africa. So banning plastic here in America will have little measurable effect on pollution worldwide."

Zero-waste grocery store aims to dump all single-use plastics - "At a new Toronto grocery store, if you want to buy milk, it's BYOB. That's bring your own bottle.You then fill up a glass bottle or jar from a large stainless steel dispenser... don't bother looking for the roll of plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Instead, customers bring their own re-useable bags or they can buy cotton ones at the store"
We already need to bring around our own bags. Now you need to bring your own bottles to go shopping

Plastic bag bans are actually terrible for the environment and make us sicker - "The ill-conceived ban is a policy that cannot possibly pass a cost-benefit analysis, not least because politicians have no way of measuring the cost of the regulation — that is, the amount of inconvenience that the ban forces consumers and businesses to suffer. Meanwhile, there is pretty strong evidence that the benefits of the regulation (supposedly a cleaner environment) are either zero or negative.In the first place, one of the reasons plastic bags are so popular is because of all the ways they make the environment cleaner and less hazardous to humans. Dog walkers use plastic bags to clean the environment of pet waste. People use plastic bags to carry clothes and books and everything else from place to place in order to keep their belongings clean from the dirt on the ground.Plastic grocery bags are also an excellent way to protect people from bacteria in the environment, because they are disposable. By contrast, reusable grocery bags can be “a serious threat to public health,” according to Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist and co-author of a study on grocery bags. He noted that health risks of reusable bags came “especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled.” Another study by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University examined the connection between San Francisco’s plastic bag ban and bacteria-related illnesses. They concluded that “both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect"... the bans “appear to be victories of symbolism over sound policy” and that “predatory politics may often be found lurking beneath the green veneer of plastic bag bans.” Indeed, there is no better way to describe the politics of those who ban, without good reason, products shoppers want to use."

The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? - "Plastic is everywhere not because it was always better than the natural materials it replaced, but because it was lighter and cheaper – so much cheaper, in fact, that it was easier to justify throwing away... In the same way steel enabled new frontiers in building, plastic made possible the cheap and disposable consumer culture that we have come to take for granted. To take on plastic is in some way to take on consumerism itself... The most astounding thing about the anti-plastic movement is just how fast it has grown. To travel back even to 2015 is to enter to a world in which almost all of the things we currently know about plastic are already known, but people aren’t very angry about it. As recently as three years ago, plastic was just one of those problems – like climate change, endangered species or antibiotic resistance – that everyone agreed was bad, but which few people considered doing much about... some scientists seem vaguely embarrassed by the scale of the backlash. “I scratch my head about it every day,” says the Imperial College oceanographer Erik van Sebille. “How is plastic public enemy No 1? That should be climate change.” Other scientists I spoke to downplayed plastic pollution as one problem among many, albeit one that had crowded out public interest in more pressing problems... There is a slight tinge of mania to all this. Natalie Fee, an activist who founded the Bristol-based campaign group City to Sea, told me that after appearing on the BBC last year to talk about plastic she began receiving multiple requests to speak at banks and corporate boardrooms about her work, like a motivational guru. And there is also a clear note of opportunism. A former highly placed staff member at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told me that the recent focus on plastics was widely seen within the department as a ministerial scramble for popular non-partisan policies to fill the void after the Brexit referendum. “[Michael] Gove was keen to show we could do it alone, and to show he was doing something good as environment secretary. It’s turned out both of those have worked really well for plastics,” the Defra staffer said... plastic did more than merely take the place of existing materials, leaving the world otherwise unchanged. Its unique properties – being simultaneously more malleable and easier to work with, and also far cheaper and lighter than the materials it replaced – actually helped kickstart the global economy’s shift to disposal consumerism... plastic is one of the worst materials for recycling. Glass, steel and aluminium can be melted and reformed a nearly infinite number of times to make new products of the same quality as the first. Plastic, by contrast, significantly degrades each time it is recycled. A plastic bottle cannot be recycled to make a plastic bottle of the same quality. Instead, recycled plastic becomes clothing fibres, or slats for furniture, which then might go on to be road filler, or plastic insulation, neither of which are further recyclable. Each stage is essentially a one-way ratchet towards landfill or the ocean. “The future of plastics recycling is still a total mystery”, the University of Wisconsin engineer Robert Ham said, in 1992, noting the limited number of things that plastic consumer products could become... some environmental campaigners refer to household pickup as “wish-cycling”, and recycling bins as a “magic box” that assuages people’s guilt without really helping much."

We Depend on Plastic. Now We’re Drowning in It. - "plastics have transformed all our lives as few other inventions have, mostly for the better. They’ve eased travel into space and revolutionized medicine. They lighten every car and jumbo jet today, saving fuel—and pollution. In the form of clingy, light-as-air wraps, they extend the life of fresh food. In airbags, incubators, helmets, or simply by delivering clean drinking water to poor people in those now demonized disposable bottles, plastics save lives daily.In one of their early applications, they saved wildlife. In the mid-1800s, piano keys, billiard balls, combs, and all manner of trinkets were made of a scarce natural material: elephant ivory. With the elephant population at risk and ivory expensive and scarce, a billiards company in New York City offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could come up with an alternative... Besides sparing at least some elephants, celluloid also helped change billiards from solely an aristocratic pastime to one that working people play in bars... The flat is in a garbage-filled slum named Aroma, next to another slum named Happyland... the fastest way to make a big difference, Siegler says, is low tech. It’s more garbage trucks and landfills."

Government warned plastic bag ban would hurt the poor
In 2018 I was pleasantly surprised that New Zealand hadn't fallen to plastic bag mania yet. But 2019 is the year they will

Sustainable Menstruation- The Impact of Menstrual Products on the Environment - "A plastic, industrially manufactured, disposable sanitary pad requires about 500–800 years to decompose. Thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste is generated every month all over the world.432 million pads/sanitary napkins are generated in India annually, the potential to cover landfills spread over 24 hectares.This is a ridiculous amount of pollution which is hazardous with toxic chemicals leaching the soil, strong and harsh odours emitted by the waste disposed of in landfills or buried in the soil. This waste is toxic and hazardous to human health as well"
Maybe a viral photo of an albatross choking on a sanitary pad will lead for greenies to call for bans on disposable sanitary pads - instead of looking at the real problem of waste disposal

Menstrual Products Are the Fifth Most Common Plastic Polluting the Ocean - "Tampons and menstrual pads might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about the “plastic problem,” but according to a recent report by the European Commission, they are the fifth most common type of plastic waste washing up on beaches.When the UK’s Marine Conservation Society did its annual beach clean-up in 2016, it found 20 period products per 100 meters of shoreline... The average menstrual pad contains the equivalent of four plastic grocery bags"

Why cloth diapers might not be the greener choice, after all - The Washington Post - "those bad old disposable diapers may be better than the allegedly green alternatives.Although there is a growing market for all-in-one reusable diapers made from synthetics, most cloth diapers are still cotton prefolds — rectangles of fabric that fit into waterproof liners. And as a crop and a fabric, cotton undermines its own reputation as safe and green. Safety, a concern raised for some by chemicals and dyes in disposables, is in the eye of the beholder; cotton production is so chemical-intensive that it has been directly linked to poor health outcomes among producers. As for environmental friendliness, the data on cotton is damning. And if “better for the planet” includes notions of what’s better for its inhabitants, there is a social dimension of cotton diapers that is unequivocally more harmful than disposables. Cotton fertilizers are major greenhouse gas emitters, and trucking cotton from farms to industrial gins, spinners and weavers generates transportation emissions, compounded by repeated energy-intensive heating and cooling processes... recent improvements to standard disposables shift the ecological balance in their favor... If the environmental improvements related to disposables don’t influence cotton-diaper fans, perhaps the labor conditions for disposable-diaper manufacturing will. Pampers and Huggies are subsidiaries of mega-corporations Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark, respectively. Manufacturing is U.S.-based, and both companies’ workforces make wages above the national minimum, with salaries starting at more than $11 an hour"
Time to get rid of all diapers!

Singapore goes through 1.76 billion plastic items a year, recycles less than 20% - "In a survey of more than 1,000 people online, the non-governmental organisation found that people in Singapore take 820 million plastic bags yearly from supermarkets. Only 2 per cent of these supermarket plastic bags were recycled by consumers. Two-thirds were used for the disposal of waste."
Since two thirds of supermarket plastic bags in Singapore are used for waste disposal, charging for or banning bags just transfers costs from supermarkets to households
We should ban disposal tampons, sanitary pads and diapers next

ORAL REPLY BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ON MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION AND SINGLE USE PLASTICS, 6 AUGUST 2018 - "Regarding single-use plastics, a recent NEA life-cycle assessment study found that available alternatives to plastics, including biodegradable bags, also have an environmental impact. For example, they consume water during production or result in forest destruction. Substituting plastics with these alternatives is not likely to improve the environmental outcome. This is especially so in Singapore where we incinerate our waste instead of landfilling it"
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