Costa Rica Plans to Eliminate Single Use Plastics. Why can’t the U.S.?

Day 148 – Costa Rica hopes to be the first country to eliminate single use plastics. In 2020, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced the ambitious plan at his inauguration. He wants to achieve this goal this year, 2021. It does seem like an impossible achievement, but Costa Rica has proven time and time again that they are committed to finding ways to protect and preserve their country. Costa Rica has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26% in 1984 to more than 52% in 2020. They also get almost 99% of their energy from renewable sources. The country uses resources like rivers, volcanos, geothermal, solar, and wind power to make energy.

The plan to eliminate single use plastics consists of 5 strategic axes:

  1. Municipal incentives
  2. Policies and institutional guidelines for suppliers
  3. Replacement of single-use plastic products
  4. Research and development
  5. Investment in strategic initiatives

In June of last year, the country officially launched its national strategy to replace the consumption of single use plastics for renewable and water-soluble alternatives. All single-use items must be recyclable or biodegradable. Petroleum based single-use items will not be allowed in Costa Rica.

So, why wouldn’t this work in the U.S.?

In an article published by NPR on May 18, 2021, a report by Australia’s Minderoo Foundation is discussed. The report offers one of the fullest accountings, to date, of the companies behind the production of single-use plastics. The study identifies 20 companies as the source of 55% of the world’s single-use plastic waste, while the top 100 companies account for more than 90%.

“At the top of what the foundation calls its “Plastic Waste Makers Index” is the energy giant Exxon Mobil, followed by the Dow Chemical Co. and China’s Sinopec. The report found that Exxon Mobil was responsible for 5.9 million metric tons of such waste in 2019, while Dow and Sinopec contributed 5.6 million and 5.3 million, respectively. Taken together, the three companies account for 16% of all waste from single-use plastics such as bottles, bags and food packaging, according to the report.”NPR

Big business and big money is preventing the U.S. from making any headway in the fight to eliminate single use plastics.

“The report also traced the money invested in the production of single-use plastics, finding that 20 institutional asset managers hold shares worth close to $300 billion in the parent companies that make up the foundation’s rankings. The top three investors are U.S.-based Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group, which according to the report have an estimated $6 billion invested in the production of single-use plastics.” – NPR

Until, the U.S. can get everyone on board (government, industry, and consumers), we will never be able to accomplish what Costa Rica plans to do and will most likely be successful in doing, saying goodbye to single-use plastics forever.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Learn About Composting Day.

No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.