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The Debate of Whether Single-use Plastic Should Be Banned

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A shocking amount of 150 million tons of plastic debris contaminate the world’s oceans today; over one million sea creatures are killed annually as a direct result of plastic litter. Plastic, unlike other substances, are not biodegradable. Meaning that they cannot be broken down by living organisms. Instead, they are photodegradable or broken down through the sun rays. Decay via sun is a long and drawn out process; sometimes taking up to 1,000 years to fully decompound. During the extended deterioration process, animals ingest small fragments, and plastic enters the food chain. Experts including David Azoulay believe that plastic puts the health of people and animals at risk. He goes so far as to claim that plastic causes cancers and birth defects. Many countries have begun to take action: developed nations like India, South Korea, UK, along with other less developed nations have implemented a plastic ban in some form. However, people depend heavily on plastic in their day to day lives, and a plastic ban might have negative repercussions. Other experts argue that a plastic ban will do more harm than good. The question centering the debate is this: Should single-use plastics be banned?

Advocate John Hite answers yes. He argues that a plastic bag ban is a good first step for a plastic free future, and ultimately a cleaner Earth. John Hite is a policy analyst who works to set guidelines for the Zero Waste project. His reputation is admirable; he not only works with the zero waste project, but also with other international waste management organizations. In addition, he is a promoter of the plastic free New England campaign. His vast experience earns him the respect of others, and works to increase his credibility as a source for the argument. As well as proving his first-hand plastic waste experience, increasing his reliability. John studied geography and spanish in his higher education. Though he fixated on environmental policies in Mexico during his schooling, education on geography and spanish do not meet the type of expertise needed to understand biological effects of plastic. With his education considered, his credibility is lowered. In his writing, he includes a great deal of his own opinion, sometimes in places where his thoughts on the matter seem to be unnecessary. Bias as this could potentially decrease his credibility.

The other side of the argument answers that a plastic ban will have the opposite of the intended effect, actually hurting the environment as well as the economy. Bob Lilienfield questions the banning of plastic. He claims that our present alternatives to plastic will have even worse effects. The time Lilienfield has been a part of the environmental field dates back to 1990 where he kick started his career by setting up recycling programmes for fairs and sport arenas. He continued on to create the ULS report, a now famous journal designed to spread awareness to environmental issues; he wrote an article for a leading news source known as the New York Times and he published a book on a topic of environmental fixes; he writes about packaging and sorts for many other well known publications currently; he works with numerous food and agriculture companies including the notorious WalMart. His great achievements are evidence of a good reputation and expertise which increase his credibility as a source. One could argue that his immense experience makes up for his not having a college education on the subject. Others could argue that schooling based on business is inadequate. His lack of education in sciences weakens his credibility. Lilienfield’s variety in experiences provides him with an acceptable ability to see from a broad perspective, increasing his credibility. The second source gives the audience a view of the economic impact of a ban. The authors named Pamella Villareal and Baruch Feigenbaum argue that a plastic ban will destroy the economy. Villareal is a long-time member of the National Center of Policy Analysis (NCPA) and Feigenbaum is an influencer for the Reason Foundation. Both of these establishments are held to a high standard, and were founded over thirty years ago (NCPA est. 1983 and (the Reason Foundation est. 1968). They are also both not for profit. When taken into account, their credibility is heightened. Although, according to Wikipedia, both establishments are solely American. The fact that the establishments do not exist on a global level lower their ability to see, and their credibility in the end. Together the writers have a tremendous amount of expertise in social science and business. What is missing though, is expertise in the science field; their credibility is lowered in this way. The organizations the authors work for, the NCPA and the Reason Foundation are based out of California (that is the NCPA) and Texas (that is the Reason Foundation). These are both locations that the data was recorded from; writers might have a vested interest against plastic bans in California and Texas, as to financially aid the states that are their home. The possibility of vested interest weakens their credibility further.

John Hite’s argument begins with the issue of recycling plastic waste, claiming that plastic is extremely hard to recycle compared to other materials. This is due to the many dissimilar properties that plastics might have; differing color, density, and electromagnetism make the sorting and separating process nearly impossible. Recycling plastic is complicated, to say the least; some plastics are not recyclable at all. John Hites states,” Plastics are sorted along with more recyclable items like glass jars, metal cans, and paper goods. But not all types of plastic are recyclable. And if recyclable plastic gets contaminated with non-recyclable plastic, it sends the whole bale straight to the landfill.” One must assume that the majority of people recycle in order for this reason to fortify his argument. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the mean recycling rate of developed countries across the globe (Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Australia) is less than fifty percent. Hite’s reasoning that plastic is tough to recycle is not significant because most people do not recycle to begin with. Hite’s next point involves the dangerous effects of plastic on the environment at each step of the life cycle. He acknowledges and counters the other point of view, which serves to strengthen his argument. ” that shows the carbon impact of paper, reusable plastic, and cotton bags is higher than single-use plastic bags when considering the production, use, and disposal of each…What this report doesn’t include is any attempt to calculate the toxicity of plastic or the dangers of littering plastic bags,” he rebuttals. Hite reasons that poisonous, cancer inducing gasses are released during the beginning ages. Hite’s point is well made and compelling in some cases, but with this said, the evidence lacks a numerical foundation. The qualitative data that he presumes weakens his argument. His second reason that plastic litter is deadly to marine life however, is more solid and well backed. The evidence is based on numerical data which adds to the argument.

David Tyler and Berri Boula both have a different outlook on the matter. For reasons to be discussed, both he and she say no to the banning of convenient single use plastics. David Tyler is a renown chemist who has years of experience and expertise in the subject of plastic chemistry. Although,he practices the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. Providing little no no factual evidence of his claims, it seems that we are just supposed to accept whatever he says because he is an expert. There are many supporting reasons (strength) but there are not enough supporting evidence. David Tyler claims that the ecological footprint of plastic is actually less than that of plastic alternatives like paper and cotton. Basically, banning plastic would only hurt the environment even more, not help. It takes more resources and creates more carbon dioxide to use plastic alternatives. He claims to have done multiple scientific studies in order to reach the new conclusion. Berri Boula looks at banning convenient single use plastic with an economic lense. According to her research banning convenient-single-use plastic would result in theft, lay-offs, and a decrease in store’s profit. She claims that people would be more likely to steal shopping carts to carry their groceries. People working in the packaging food workforce would all lose their jobs. Stores under a ban would decrease in profits while stores outside of the ban would increase in profits. “According to a survey on the economic effects of the plastic bag ban area reduced their employment by more than 10% while stores outside of the ban increased their employment by 2.4%. Each reason is backed with compelling evidence found in the website. Their argument is that a plastic bag ban would harm the environment even more and hurt the economy even more.

Before my research I felt that convenient single use plastic should be banned. After looking deep into the issue, it seems that there are other things to consider. Considering the other sides of the argument, I now believe that convenient single use plastics should not be banned. Like the second perspective advocated, it seems like it would do more harm than good. I think that a ban would be more of “covering up this issue” than actually solving it. In order to solve this plastic problem we as a society, need to change our habits. A plastic ban is foolish.  

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