This is a letter to the editor written by Ithaca resident Kathleen Yen. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2023 NYS Legislative session is scheduled to end on June 8, and legislative leaders need to hear from you about the plastic pollution/waste crisis and the urgent need to reduce plastic production, use, and waste, especially single-use plastics and packaging through legislative action this session.
The fate of plastic products is a global and local environmental concern. Plastic waste and pollution is a man-made problem.“We made it. We depend on it. We’re drowning in it,” wrote Laura Parker in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic. According to the United Nation Environment Program Executive Director, “The way we produce, use, and dispose of plastics is polluting ecosystems, creating risks for human health and destabilizing the climate.” Such concerns have been enunciated in reports from the United Nations Environment Programme (16 May 2023), National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (Dec. 2021), Beyond Plastics, Center for International Environmental Law,and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Plastic waste is pervasive. The amount of plastic produced (primarily from fossil fuels) and the waste generated is increasing annually. Approximately 40% of plastic produced is single-use plastic. Its production and the toxic chemical additives pose a serious environmental and health threat at each stage of the plastic lifecycle (extraction of oil and gas, transport, refining and manufacturing, customer use, waste management) often negatively impacting poor, rural and marginalized communities. 75.6% of plastic waste is landfilled, 15.8%-incinerated (with toxic bottom ash landfilled), 4.5%-domestic recycled, 4.2%-exported. [USEPA 2018]
Plastics break down into micro- and nano-plastic particles and enter the environment, the food chain and our bodies through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Micro- and nano-plastic particles have been found in the environment (air, soil, water, including wastewater sludge), in wildlife, microorganisms, and human blood, veins, lung, placenta, newborns, and breast milk. Some plastic chemical additives are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, and many other chemicals are not tested for safety or long-term exposure. This is of particular concern for vulnerable populations, pregnant women, infants and young children.
NYS currently has pending legislation to mitigate packaging waste and plastic pollution. Two comprehensive bills under consideration are The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act S4246 (Harckham)/A5322 (Glick), and the Bigger Better Bottle Bill S.237(May)/A.6353 (Glick). Together these bills would require companies to reduce packaging (including single-use plastic and packaging), promote waste-prevention measures and municipal solid waste system improvements, support reusable and refill infrastructure, promote sustainable product design, reduce toxins in packaging, and shift the cost burden for end-of-life waste from taxpayers to the large producers. The updated Bottle bill would expand the types of deposit containers accepted (e.g. wine, most non-carbonated beverages), raise the deposit and handling fees, divert beverage containers from landfills and reduce the burden on municipal recycling programs.
Contact your NYS elected officials today, before June 8th, and share your views by using the web contact form, or calling the Senate or Assembly operator and asking for your elected officials (Senator Lea Webb, Assemblyperson Dr. Anna Kelles for Tompkins County residents), NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: NYS Assembly: www.nyassembly.gov; 1-518-455-4100; NYS Senate: www.nysenate.gov; 1-518-455-2800.