We are two Los Angeles-based sustainability-minded activists pushing for waste reform.
We want to see how far we normal folks can go to reduce waste in Los Angeles beyond simply minimizing our personal trash. (There are other blogs for that — though we won’t always be able to resist digressing. ) Thousands of people are already, like us, diverting hundreds of pounds of trash a year from going to landfills by living conscientiously. But with tens of millions of people in California that’s not enough. Small and large-scale political action is the only way to make a big change.
Our current goal is to effect a small tax or fee on one-time use disposables, applied at the register. That is to say that neither coffee cups, nor paper grocery bags, nor plastic grocery bags, nor produce bags, nor take-away clamshells, nor water bottles, nor paper fast-food bags, would be free (or would even appear to be free.) At least one of us wants plastic water bottles and boxes banned for good.
Right now much the cost of disposing of these one-time-use goods is paid for by municipalities because economic incentives (for recycling) and disincentives (for wasting) are not significant enough. A tax would offset some of this financial burden, although the long-term cost of true recycling is probably much higher than a plausible tax.
Moreover, there is yet another reason to want a tax besides simple economics. People are much less likely to take things when they have to pay for them, even if that payment is a symbolic couple of cents.
On another note, what happens to your material after your put it in your recycling bin? The answer is, “it’s complicated.” Some plastics make it into closed-loop recycling. Many are “downcycled” into other materials, like furniture, carpets, and construction materials. In fact, here in LA, bottles are made into carpets, carpets are made into cushions, and tires are made into roads. That’s the bright side of recycling. On the darker side, a lot of waste is burned, landfilled, or disappears. (How much? We aren’t sure.) We visit recycling plants to show you in technicolor what this process looks like.
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