Allow me to paraphrase her Saturday article subtitled “Recycling targets seem to be based on the belief that the more we recycle, the faster we will go to Heaven” in which she snidely downplays the impact of disposable plastic in our society and infers that environmental municipal laws are based more on warm fuzzy feelings than economics or rational decision making.
First off, she introduces the fact that “it takes a great deal more energy to manufacture a reusable ceramic cup than . . . any kind of disposable cup” but goes on to justify using disposables because one would have to use their mug “a whopping 1,006 times to break even” compared to using polystyrene cups.
I agree with the facts, but not the justification.
Assuming the average person has one cup of coffee a day, that’s only 2.75 years of remembering your beverage container to get to the point where you have used less net energy than that fellow next to you with the massive pile of polystyrene landfill garbage. Secondly, if your mug cost you $10, and you get your coffee at the local store where they give you 10 cents (number from Wente’s article) each time you use your reusable mug, I calculate that in 2.75 years, you will have actually saved $90.60 more than the polystyrene guy.
Plastic bags. Yes, I have heard about how when Ireland “slapped a hefty tax on plastic shopping bags” the sales of plastic kitchen bags went up. I sincerely doubt they went up to the point where an individual was going through 10 bags a week like they do with grocery bags. Besides, the whole paper vs plastic argument is a little old; we’re talking infinitely reusable fabric bags now.
Finally, she throws out a remark about how “plastic bags don’t kill marine animals”. Maybe I’m taking the bait here, but is that comment for real?
Maybe every plastic bag doesn’t end up down some animal’s throat, but they’re not exactly nutritious or safe. I mean, you don’t let your children run around with them on their heads do you? There have been many, many documented accounts of marine animals found with plastic in their stomachs, and personally I think one strangled dolphin is one too many.
And anyway, since when is the ‘it doesn’t kill us immediately so it must be ok’ mentality been the ethical standard? Our society could afford to cut down on our disposable waste a little and bags and cups are an easy way to start. Why do people assume that the right to produce needless waste and promote environmental degradation is in the Charter of Rights?
So to Margret Wente who “never realized that choosing a coffee cup for [her] double-double [was] an ethical decision”, I’m sorry that you have to be “harangued by clueless city councilors and sanctimonious 11-year-olds”, but if you’d just ditch that styrofoam cup, you could save yourself a couple of bucks, a couple trips to the curb with your overflowing garbage bin, and maybe even a lifetime of carcinogens leaching into your coffee.
Read the full Globe and Mail article here.