Monday, August 20, 2012

"Plastics News" Misplaces Comments?

On Friday I discovered a plastics-industry puff piece in Plastics News online. The author, a "sustainability coordinator" at a plastics thermoformer, wrote that the problem of ocean plastics is overplayed.
Heavyweights fighting against ocean garbage had weighed in at the comments: Wallace "J" Nichols of the California Academy of Science,  Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, Nick Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy. I added mine at the end, being passionate about this problem. And having just written the Scientific American article illustrating how what we see on the surface is the tiniest fraction of what we're doing to the ocean. A small paragraph illustrating that it's time to kill the rhetoric, wake up, look at the "pristine" beaches of the world, and open our eyes.

Imagine my surprise this morning to find that comment mysteriously gone. It had no links and its architecture was just like the other comments, so there was no obvious reason to flag it.

Still, in a way it's good. It gave me a chance to reframe my comment and post it again. For the moment, the comment is up. But in case it gets "lost" again, here it is in full:

How exciting to have found this post. I just published an article for SciAm last week describing the massive amounts of sunk plastic washing up at a tiny deserted cove in southern Maine. What floats on the surface is literally the tip of the iceberg, and what sinks does persist, and is real. Despite whitewashes.

It's not a surprise that the plastics industry continually comes back to SEA's 2010 report and completely dismisses other work like that of Miriam Goldstein just a few months ago.

It's not a surprise that the industry helps scupper ideas like bottle bills and switching to reusable bags. These represent a cost, and the industry can't have that.

It's not a surprise that the industry still uses the word "recycle" shamanistically while holding a recycling bin as a talisman. Even though recycling plastic just adds -more- plastic to the world instead of less.

And it's not a surprise that the industry puts the blame squarely on the end consumer. As Stiv above says, even in nations where the industry has rooted itself before there were any form of modern waste-management systems in place.

What is a surprise is that the industry is still taken seriously as a concerned actor. As though people still believe it is working in good faith to solve a growing, worsening pandemic of garbage, and the loss of economic, ecological, and emotional vitality that such garbage causes.

It's time to cut the copouts and the rhetoric, legislate industry responsibility since it won't act responsibly itself, and start to change the game.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts & comments. I'm sure the industry would love to have respectful & honest opinions about how to build trust and make a difference.


  1. Harold, I don't think I deleted your comment, but if I did I apologize. It's on the column now, and I'm also posting a blog item today about the column and the good discussion that it generated. Thank you for your comments, and for this post. Don Loepp, editor, Plastics News.

    1. Hi Don, thanks for the comment! My original post from Friday is still gone (have checked on various computers to make sure it isn't a cache thing). It was smaller, about a 7-8 line one-paragraph thing. It was up as of yesterday (Sunday) evening, but gone this morning. What's up there now is what I've rewritten this morning. But very glad to see the new one still there, along with the others from Dr. Nichols, etc. Looking forward to reading your blog post.

  2. I was deleting a bunch of spam comments over the weekend, it's possible that I slipped and deleted your first comment too. (Oh cursed spam!) I apologize, and thank you for your persistence. My new blog post is live now, and it links to your SciAm column and this blog. I encourage you to check it out, and to comment. DL