Why reuse? What’s up with plastic pollution?

Why do we ask Ithacans to reuse and Bring Your Own (BYO)?

It is because:

Plastic Crisis = Climate Crisis.
Plastic Crisis = Public Health Crisis.
Plastic Crisis = Environmental Justice Crisis.

And our addiction to single-use disposables is what’s fueling this crisis.

Plastic pollutes all along its lifecycle — from the extraction and refining of raw fossil fuel materials, to the manufacturing processes, consumption, to disposal.

A 2021 report published Beyond Plastics titled “Plastic is New Coal” sends a clarion call about the impact of plastics on climate. The report shows that GHG (greenhouse gas) emission from plastics will surpass that of coal production by 2030 in the United States.



Another 2021 report “A Tale of Five Cities” from GAIA shows that Only 8.8% of all plastic in the waste stream in the five major US cities is actually being recycled. There is no reason to believe that our own Tompkins County to be significantly better in plastic recycling than those cities.

In May 2022, the Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics released a new report with even more sobering data, “The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate,” which documented a recycling rate of 5 to 6% for post-consumer plastic waste in the U.S. for 2021. The groups also revealed that while plastics recycling is on the decline, the per capita generation of plastic waste has increased by 263% since 1980.

Where do the rest of plastics go to? Most of plastics end up very roughly in these three places: 1. our outdoor environment 2. landfills, and 3. incinerators.

Those that end up in our outdoor environment eventually becomes invisible microplastic particles turning up in our air, water, soil and food and our human bodies, contaminating our environment and threatening wildlife and our own human public health.

Plastics that end up in landfills leach out cocktails of toxic chemicals including PFAS, “forever chemicals,” contaminating surrounding land, surface and groundwater.

Those that end up in incinerators go into the air as toxic emissions including PFAS.

Please read more about Plastics and Toxicity.

It is also extremely important to remember that those solid waste facilities are usually located in the climate justice communities around the globe, endangering health of those who live near them.

We need to dramatically reduce the amount of waste we produce. Single-use disposables are the worst culprit in this crisis. As the reports above make it abundantly clear, we cannot recycle out of our way out of this plastic crisis.

We need a change in our collective mindset. We need to spearhead cultural change from toxic trashiness of disposable economy into prosperity through principled reuse and creativity.

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