While wholesale bans on plastic packaging and single-use plastics appear to be the fast, easy solution for legislators, Cookson believes that lawmakers need to learn the facts. “First, we need to make sure lawmakers understand that when they ban plastic, the alternative materials have a greater environmental footprint in terms of greenhouse gases (GHGs), energy and water usage,” he explained.
Banning plastics has consequences
A report from the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS), “Regulation Risks Less Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic” by Mark Victory, notes that “non-plastic food-packaging alternatives, on average, increase energy use 2.2 times, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 2.7%, and weight 3.6 times,” according to a report from a select committee in the UK parliament. “As there is greater awareness around GHGs and climate, it’s very important that policy makers are aware that there are consequences to banning plastics,” said Cookson. “Good science and good economics is the foundation for making sound decisions about plastic waste.”
Cookson noted that through engagement with the industry, lawmakers can make better choices. As the industry tells its stories about the good jobs being created, the benefits that plastics bring to society, and the many studies showing that plastic is the most eco-friendly packaging material, Cookson believes that lawmakers will become better informed. “Certainly policy makers are thinking about this and there are some thoughtful lawmakers who take these studies into consideration when making decisions,” Cookson said.
“I think it’s an exciting time for innovators,” Cookson added. “There’s so much interest in sustainability and reducing plastics’ impact on the environment through recycling and other advanced technologies that are effective in helping to solve the plastic waste challenges, it makes outright bans unnecessary.”
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