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June 19, 2020 | Plastic Rain is Coming Down on All of Us

Danielle Park

Portfolio Manager and President of Venable Park Investment Counsel ( Ms Park is a financial analyst, attorney, finance author and regular guest on North American media. She is also the author of the best-selling myth-busting book "Juggling Dynamite: An insider's wisdom on money management, markets and wealth that lasts," and a popular daily financial blog:

Today, more than 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels.  Our throw-away habits have made plastics profitable for producers while devastating environmental and health costs are left to mount on the public tab.  The COVID-19 pandemic has been doubly harmful in both increasing plastic use and reducing our attention on its pollution as we focus on immediate health threats.  Meanwhile, longer-term health harm is compounding all around us.  See Plastic rain is the new acid rain:

Writing today in the journal Science, researchers report a startling discovery: After collecting rainwater and air samples for 14 months, they calculated that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in the western US each year. That’s the equivalent of over 120 million plastic water bottles. “We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total US area,” says lead author Janice Brahney, an environmental scientist at Utah State University. “The number was just so large, it’s shocking.”

It further confirms an increasingly hellish scenario: Microplastics are blowing all over the world, landing in supposedly pure habitats, like the Arctic and the remote French Pyrenees. They’re flowing into the oceans via wastewater and tainting deep-sea ecosystems, and they’re even ejecting out of the water and blowing onto land in sea breezes. And now in the American West, and presumably across the rest of the world given that these are fundamental atmospheric processes, they are falling in the form of plastic rain—the new acid rain.

Given present consumer choices, efforts to minimize and avoid petro-plastics feels nearly hopeless today.  But this issue will not solve itself.   There are many non-toxic alternatives that can be used when demanded by regulation.

With its deep fossil fuel industry ties, Canada is far behind the EU and other countries in banning non-biodegradable single-use plastics.  We must dramatically reduce packaging and, where plastics are wanted, make them from plant waste and other biodegradable materials.  There are already solutions like combining natural rubber with bio-plastic which are stronger and more flexible than petro-plastics.

A ban on non-biodegradable plastics will focus investment and demand on sustainable packaging types and create much-needed new jobs and business lines.  See Study shows potential for earth-friendly plastic replacement.  Continuing the status quo is irrational and self-destructive

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June 19th, 2020

Posted In: Juggling Dynamite

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