Closed Loop Consumption reduces our dependancy on oil and gas extraction, why I’m voting Yes on Colorado Rising’s Prop 112.


Plastic recycling

Plastics, made of oil and gas, are being recycled less and less as stringent requirements on contamination mean more plastic is bound for the landfill.

Global Climate Change. These three words have a variety of meanings, depending on whom you ask. For many around the world, these three words are a hotbed of denial. As I’ve written in this past article The shocking evidence that Shell Oil knew it was causing global climate change all along, oil and gas companies have known about their own liability in causing GCC for decades. The exposure of this truth did not cause a global crisis of accountability.

Over the summer the apparent boldness of this industry exposed itself even more. One such example is how oil companies with refineries along the southern coast of Texas requested asistance from the government to protect themselves against shrinking shorelines and rising water levels. These changes to the land around the refineries that fill the landscape are a direct cause of the products these refineries themselves create.  In Colorado, the battle with oil and gas companies is exploding as citizens inniatives put safety regulations on the ballot once again in Propositon 112, a call to move community outside the dangerous evacauation zone of oil and gas wells, including those commonly known as Fracking wells.  These extractions bring oil and gas burries miles in the earth’s crust to the surface, where they will most commonly produce carbon and methane emmissions either by flaring or by combustion. that are causing a wide variety of climate events that produce greater damage to the environments we depend upon for life itself.

 

Image result for suncor refinery flaring denver

Flaring, a process of burning gas at refineries or fracking sites in some places; is a major contributor to global climate change. Photo The Denver Chanel.com

When we examine the issues being faced along shorelines globally we see this issue being examined and in many cases, being tackled aggressively.  Protecting global shorelines to mitigate the impacts of oceanic storms is growing more important. Ensuring natural environments like mangroves, sand bars, replanting and securing disappearing Coral reefs are all measures actively deployed. Unfortunately, even where these intentional measures are enacted, the global impacts are difficult to fight.   Most of us want to make intentional changes to help solve this problem, but  in reality underanding the HOW can be quite difficult.  Unfortunately, according to most scientists we have a limited time – just 12 years; to change our consumption systems to ensure that life as we know it will continue to survive on the only planet we know of to survive on.

The answer is to changing our consumption systems is complex and multi layered.  The most basic aspect is that our shift must come from several primary understandings.  The first is that globalization of all consumer goods is a process that is unhealthy.  Examples of this include the transport of disposable plastic food packaging and packaged water.  Per case of bottled water, roughly 2.5 quarts of oil are burned in the manufacture and transport to the store!  Items like plastic straws, silverware and food containers are made from extracted oil and gas products that are manufactured for single use, disposed in landfills and decompose into methane gas over hundreds of years.  The quantites of ‘single use plastic’ disposed of daily is nearly imposible to calculate.  In 2011 Be Straw Free was founded and soon determined that roughly 500 million straws are used daily in the United States.  While this calculation may not be 100% accurate, it paints a real foundation for understanding that the majority of straws, forks, disposable beverage and food packaging are all made of oil and gas.

 

Teaching effective waste disposal practices at ‘Civic Center Eats’; a lunchtime option in downtown Denver Colorado.  Due to a lack of consistent waste management standards, not one person knew how every part of their meal should be disposed.

Creating cultural shifts in the consumption of these so called ‘disposable plastics’ is one of the most urgent actions we can take in our communities.  Mandating that these type of items are made of plant based materials instead of oil based materials means that when they are disposed of they can be composted, or turned back into soil.  The practice of recycling cannot effectively occur with these type of materials for two primary reasons. The first is contamination.  In 2016, China changed the standards for acceptable contamination because in short, most cultures don’t examine the results of their waste effectively.  Contamination when it comes to plastic packaging, is anything that is not plastic.  Most commonly this will be food contamination like yogurt, peanut butter, whipped cream, grease or fats.  Waste Management, a national waste hauler in the United States says that the Chineese standards are ‘Nearly Impossible’ to meet.  Additionally the silverware, straws and plastic lids don’t process through the massive MRF (Municipal Recycling Facilities).  I’ve talked about bit about these facilites in a previous post, It’s all about the MRF.

The point being, plastics recycling isn’t effective and as I’ve covered time and time again, the planet is loaded with plastic pollution.  IT’s all oil and gas that’s polluting and killing our planet.  By switching to permenant long term goods that can be recycled at the end of their lifespan, we reduce the need for expanded oil extraction that destroys our planet.  Converting to plant based disposables is a process that must occur at cultural levels, where education and effective processing make these efforts effective.

In addition to reducing consumption, we must close the consumption loop in plastics that prevents it’s effective recycling.  Additional efforts include promoting local busineses to swithing to compostable materials when their intended use is one time.  Promote events that teach sustainable consumtion by doing things like having beverages made in 5 gallon jugs, carry water sourced from the tap, eat locally grown food, use mass transit or low carbon consuming transportation methods and help to formulate laws that design greater accountability on corporations who extract natural resources or produce goods that leave a negative foot print on the planet.

In Colorado, I spent the summer putting my money where my mouth is.  I worked on and help put the ballot inniative then known as Prop 97 on the 2018 Colorado State Ballot as Inniative 112.  This inniative would requrie that oil and gas wells have a safety zone buffering the industrial operations from habitated zones like neighborhoods, hospitals and schools.  I believe the scientific evidece that fracking wells leak methane gas, that water is sacred, that produced water is poisoined permentatly and corporations don’t have a history of doing right by society as my piece on Shell Gasoline knowing they were causing global climate change over two decades ago.  While I don’t have any children, I believe in leaving this world better than I found it.  I have found and written on how much this is the responsiblity of each and every one of us.  If you live in Colorado, I believe voting #YesOn112 is also part of that responsibility.

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HB 15-1144 – Plastic Microbead Legislation – Did Colorado add Greenwashing to the list of legislative priorities?

Today Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 15-1144 a ban on solid synthetic microbeads added to cosmetic materials like face scrubs and body washes!  This bill is designed to keep tiny particles of plastic out of our waterways and local biospheres because of the negative impacts of plastic in these locations.   Colorado joins a variety of states, the first being Illinois, who are banning these microbeads.  In Illinois, efforts to introduce scientific legislation was attempted by members of the 5 Gyres Institute and the Ban the Bead Campaign.
Scientifically there are two primary problems with microbeads in our waters.  The first issue is that plastics are made with binding agents that  seep into the water when issues where the plastics leach chemicals into the water impacting the quality and purity of water.   The second issue is that these plastics are often viewed as food and are then consumed by insects and fish where two serious impacts occur.  Since plastic does not get digested by animals it accumulates in their bellies, filling up space for nutrient providing foods.  This accumulation causes a lack of space for real consumable, nutrient rich materials while leaching into the body of the animal that has consumed it.

Banning microbeads is a noble and valuable activity that should push regulations on corporations and manufacturers to be accountable and responsible for the materials they create and the environmental damage they do.  The scientific facts speak for themselves, microplastic is bad for the environment.  The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership dedicated the first three pages of it’s Fall 2014 newsletter exclusively to this topic.

The unfortunate truth is that the corporate lobby built a loophole into the rules they are placing upon themselves.  They introduced the legal terms of “Solid Synthetics” and “Nonbiodegradeable” as the specific type of plastic that would be banned.  There is scientific concern about this verbiage based on the fact that truly biodegradable plastic must have microbial breakdown.  This breakdown is only found in commercial or “hot compost” facilities.  In their 2015 publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Michigan State University student’s published a study concluding:

“anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation are not recommended as feasible disposal routes for nonbiodegradable plastics containing any of the five tested biodegradation-promoting additives.” (Selke et all – 2015)

There are dozens of journal articles and news pieces that support this thought process leading educated consumers to understand that purported bioplastics are still going to enter our waters, causing deadly toxins to enter Colorado waters, causing the same concerns for bioaccumulation that  has proven to exist in our waters.  As this piece by Mother Jones from 2009 explains; “Real biodegradable plastic should be sent to a commercial composting facility, where it will spend its final days being eaten by microbes. But here’s the catch: In 2007, only 42 communities nationwide offered compost collection. (Seventeen were in California.) And though some biodegradable plastics can be recycled, no curbside recycling program will take them.”
The unfortunate part in the current movement to ban microbeads is that this effort is being led by corporations who wish to regulate themselves so they have the control and upper hand.  In an earlier post, I commented on how Johnson and Johnson, as well as other entities showed up to Colorado House Committee Meetings to introduce soft legislation that would offer a consistent level of legislation they could manipulate in order to have “consistent legislation”.   These organizations are already phasing out these plastics from their products., but want to allow for the weakest levels of legislation to be enacted.   This process began with Unilever in 2012 and has gained momentum as you can read about in this post on Beat The Microbead’s page.

This is exactly what Director of the 5 Gyres Institue’s predicted would happen in a 2014 EcoWatch Article stating “According to Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres Institute, plastics industry lobbyists worked hard to block it, wanting legislation more like the far from ideal bill that passed in Illinois. The Ilinois bill leaves a loophole for plastic, like Polylactic Acid (PLA) the so-called biodegradable plastic that corn cups are made of. Unfortunately, PLA doesn’t biodegrade in the environment, it requires an industrial composting facility.”

And this is what has happened here in the state of Colorado.  Colorado HB-15-1144 bill specifically states:.

4) “SYNTHETIC PLASTIC MICROBEAD” MEANS AN INTENTIONALLY ADDED, NONBIODEGRADABLE, PLASTIC PARTICLE MEASURING LESS THAN FIVE MILLIMETERS IN SIZE   INTENDED TO AID IN EXFOLIATING OR CLEANSING AS PART OF A RINSE-OFF PRODUCT.”

This is exactly the actions that have been predicted by many environmentalist groups, that the efforts of the science community to curtail the effects of microplastics would be mitigated by corporations who originally fought microbead legislation so they would have the opportunity to craft and create looser regulations that would present “Greenwashed” material information that would weaken future efforts to protect our water.  Colorado is known for being a state that has fought hard to protect our waters and this bill is an unfortunate example.

The reason is very simple.  Biodegradeable plastics have not been proven to biodegrade in cold water settings.  According to Brenda Platt, coordinator for Sustainable Plastics Project:

  “Truly biodegradable plastics are plastics that can decompose into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass via microbial assimilation (the enzymatic action of microorganism). To be considered biodegradable, this decomposition has to be measured by standardized tests, and take place within a specified time period, which vary according to the “disposal” method chosen. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has created definitions on what constitutes biodegradability in various disposal environments.”

What this boils down to is sadly is that  that Colorado’s Microbead ban, HB 15-1144 is a piece of greenwashing legislation presented by corporations who are willingly removing certain types of plastics from their products – ones they already agree to take out, while  having consent to pollute in a slightly different way that still has negative impacts on our environment. The bill, is a bill with solid foundations.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast that even those individuals in the community that tried reaching out to the bills writers didn’t get an effective chance to effectively communicate the scientific realities major corporations were able to step around in the writing of this bill.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of solutions that already exist!  Besides avoiding purchasing products that already include microplastic, consumers are advised to look for exfoliating products that include natural or real plant products that are effective exfolliants.  Common materials include oatmeal, apricot or peach pits and walnut shells.  These products are already commonly found in supermarket shelves.