So we thought plastic was on its way out? California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont have banned plastic bags. To encourage reusing bags, some areas require merchants to charge customers for paper sacks.
Oregon and California have also limited the use of plastic straws.
Not so fast says the covid-19. Just as we’re getting used to bringing our own cloth bags to the grocery store, plastic manufacturers think they may have found their savior in the pandemic. The plastics industry is lobbying hard to overturn bans on single-use plastics. They argue that disposable plastics are the best option for safety and the general well-being of population during this crisis. (Plastic is “disposable” only in the sense that after one use it’s thrown away, out of sight until it turns up in the ocean or elsewhere.)
In the short term, this may be the way to go. In the long term, as John Maynard Keynes said, we’re all dead. But a plastic bag takes as long as a thousand years to decompose. At some point we’ll have to face up to that reality. And what to do with medical waste is another growing long-term problem.