Plastics and the cost of cleanup

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/897692090/how-big-oil-misled-the-public-into-believing-plastic-would-be-recycled

How Americans, and the rest of the world, were bamboozled about recycling. And it was all done not by legislation as the impetus, but rather through to power of advertising. And the coalition of Big Oil and “Big Plastic”.

And here is the interesting part. Plastics are hugely profitable. And a good deal of the profit comes from the fact that cleanup and environmental impacts are all public monies. And this has been the long term goal since the 70’s, a half century ago, when the industry knew that recycling was impossible.

Massive costly externalities, thy names are “subsidies”. The industry is over $432 billion per year with a net profit margin of 6.2%. Great, companies need profit to work. No problem.

The issue is why we have to bear the costs of environmental impact. Chop off 2% profit and we would have almost $9 billion per year for cleanup. An incomplete analogy would be that you can’t poop in your neighbors yard. Rather you have to pay for the installation and maintenance of a septic tank on your property. Or pay the neighbor for the service.

10 thoughts on “Plastics and the cost of cleanup

    1. The legacies and modi operandi of Big Oil, Big Plastic, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Agra, Big Finance, et.al., is obfuscation, confusion, stone walling, etc., We are paying big time both monetarily and environmentally.

      No need to cripple the industries either. Just make them responsible for known impacts that cost money to clean up or rectify. The money is obviously there, or in the Caymans, but it is there.

      One could argue that unknown issues can crop up, and that we can’t expect the industries to predict everything.

      However, the histories of what the industries have know for decades is another story. Tobacco, opioids, banking abuses and others are well documented and truly criminal as it affects lives and land.

      Ironically, it is the party and president of “law and order” that try so hard to protect their main donors from responsibility.

      “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” ― Anatole France

      Liked by 2 people

  1. RE: “The issue is why we have to bear the costs of environmental impact.”

    I suppose it is a breakthrough of sorts that the NPR set is finally waking to a truth that has been widely-known, widely-discussed and even more widely denied for decades: That recycling was never going to be much good for the environment. Or, more technically, that recycling plastics was never going to be a wise use of resources.

    Still, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the attempt to blame the plastics industry, or capitalism, for the NPR set’s own (debunked) mythology.

    There never was a “cost” associated with the environmental impact of plastics. That is to say, whatever environmental impact costs the NPR set may have obsessed over, they were more than offset by the cost savings that plastics delivered.

    To see how, imagine how much more your typical soccer mom would have to pay for two liters of soda if soda had to be packaged in glass bottles. Or consider the volumetric effect on city landfills if we replaced all plastics with glass or how much more it would cost to reuse/recycle glass just because it is heavy.

    In reality, markets have worked perfectly well and as desired where plastics are concerned. You just have to account for both the seen and the unseen factors to get it.

    But maybe we’ll get lucky in the end with NPR’s apparent awakening. Those who can learn to be skeptical of environmentalism for the reasons the article describes can learn to be skeptical of the deep state for the same reasons.

    Like

    1. I’m sorry you did not read the article. It clearly stated that the oil and its plastics industry purposefully mislead the public, the government and even investors since the 1970’s.
      Accountability and responsible citizenship are not too much to ask of businesses that benefit from being part of our economy.

      Lying to the public is not responsible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: “I’m sorry you did not read the article.”

        Why say things you don’t know and can’t prove? My comment is based on my reading of the article.

        RE: “It [the article] clearly stated that the oil and its plastics industry purposefully mislead the public, the government and even investors since the 1970’s.”

        Yes, it did. The industry fooled the NPR set by pretending to support recycling, which the NPR set strongly and unintelligently wanted.

        The NPR set is fooled in the same way by news media in general, especially outlets that deal in political information. Maybe if it can wake up to the envoronmental scam, tthe NPR set can wake up to other scams it currently supports.

        Like

        1. Sorry I jumped to the conclusion that you did
          not read the article.

          “NPR set strongly and unintelligently wanted.”

          How is concern for the environment unintelligent?

          The industry fooled everybody, not just NPR or the media. And did so for 50 years.

          You stated it was common knowledge that recycling plastics was not doable. So why did industry lie?

          Finally you gave glass as an example of cost savings. Glass is very recyclable. It doesn’t leach into foods. Some states require a refund for glass or metal drink containers, usually a few pennies. Soda companies used to reuse the bottles regularly.

          No one said plastic doesn’t have benefits. Yet, we are finding plastic residues in just about every living thing on earth, even plants. Beaches are covered with plastic trash. The huge Pacific Gyre, one among several, is creating havoc among marine life.

          My beef is not so much with plastic and it’s benefits or drawbacks. But just that industry lied. Just like tobacco, drugs, pesticides, banks.

          Nothing hurts capitalism more than lies, unethical practices or hiding information about harm to customers or nations. It all comes out eventually.

          With regard to costs offsetting expenses. It is much cheaper for me to dump my trash, sewage and old paint, chemicals etc in the river than it is to pay $100 or more per month for the city to dispose and treat my waste. That doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Or that the expense will evaporate since now taxes have to deal with cleanup. Taxes that I am not paying but you are.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Industry lied because people wanted to believe the lie. Is that really industry’s fault?

            Think about what really happened here. Consumers benefited from plastics. Scientifically, rationally, there was no downside to the benefits of using plastics, but consumers wanted to believe in the myth that using plastics was good for the environment. So industry sold the myth.

            Its no different from selling toothpaste for improving one’s sex life. Who is to blame if people stupidly believe their sex lives are better because of the toothpaste they buy?

            Like

        2. This is a new term for me – “The NPR set.”

          Who ARE these people? Silly folks who prefer actual facts from science, history and economics that NPR peddles rather than those oh so comforting “alternative facts” like you find on Fox News? Those people?

          OMG are they out-of-touch with reality. They “unintelligently” prefer to see packaging recycled when everybody but them knows that just dumping your shit in a landfill or a river is much cheaper. And don’t get me started on how mainstream media has them hornswoggled. All those actual facts from those enemies of the people like NYT and WAPO that they soak up lead them to “unintelligently” believe that we have corrupt, incompetent and divisive administration when the “alternative fact” is exactly the opposite. They “unintelligently” believe that things have been falling apart on Donald Trump’s watch when, of course, the “alternative fact” is that in just four short years he has Made America Great Again.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. RE: “Who ARE these people?”

            You don’t know? They are the people who listen to NPR and take what they hear seriously.

            Based on the evidence of the NPR story this post shares, the NPR set does NOT include folks who “prefer actual facts from science, history and economics.”

            The “actual facts from science, history and economics” have always been that recycling is a stupid waste of resources, but apparetnly NPR is just now discovering this truth.

            Like

          2. Nice try, but you are begging the question. The actual truth if science is that dumping plastic in the environment is extremely destructive. What has been “discovered” is that “industry lied” about following the science because, you know, profits matter more than the health of the planet.

            By the way, if you measure the level of actual knowledge that people have about science, economics and history those who rely on NPR for their information (“the NPR set”) are the best informed people in our culture. Far better informed than then people who rely on those organizations that you prefer. That finding is probably a mix of the fact that the people who choose NPR are better educated to start with and the fact that NPR eschews the dissemination of “alternative facts.”

            Liked by 1 person

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