Plasticity: Eco-Conscious Living through Policy
By Gil Segev
- Zaman, Atiq Uz, and Steffen Lehmann. “The Zero Waste Index: a Performance Measurement Tool for Waste Management Systems in a 'Zero Waste City'.” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 50, 1 July 2013, pp. 123–132.ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.11.041.
This is a scholarly article from the Journal of Cleaner Production in 2013. The authors discuss their proposed Zero Waste Index, a holistic tool to measure different cities' zero waste efforts, which takes into consideration factors other tools do not. This source was extremely useful as a spring board for my research because it brings up several terms popular in the discourse. These include Urban Metabolism, Waste Diversion, and Producer Responsibility. These will assist me in future research. The article also brings up the use of official policies in eliminating and reducing waste, which directly affects my opinion piece. Finally, it is important because it begins to poke holes in various theories about Zero Waste based on empirical evidence.
- Curran, T., and I.d. Williams. “A Zero Waste Vision for Industrial Networks in Europe.” Journal of Hazardous Materials, vol. 207-208, 15 Mar. 2012, pp. 3–7.ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2011.07.122.
This is a scholarly article from the Journal of Hazardous Materials from 2012. The authors write about a five year, international project called ZeroWIN. ZeroWIN focuses on bridging various zero waste initiatives to maximize their effectiveness in the industrial sector in particular. This source was useful for my research as it takes an optimistic approach to bringing businesses on board the zero waste movement, which is usually a pessimistic task. It proposes doing this through cyclically designed "clusters." The rest of the article outlines what this looks like and what the benefits are for business. Because this research is now complete, I also have access to the results and associated policy recommendations.
- Clapp, Jennifer, and Linda Swanston. “Doing Away with Plastic Shopping Bags: International Patterns of Norm Emergence and Policy Implementation.” Environmental Politics, vol. 18, no. 3, 2009, pp. 315–332. Taylor & Francis Online, doi:10.1080/09644010902823717.
This is a scholarly article from the Environmental Politics journal from 2009. The authors discuss the concept of a "norm," how it is formed and spread, and how plastic bag bans became a norm. This source was extremely valuable for my research as it presents information on the history of the plastic bag and all bans put in place up to 2009. It also discusses the role that businesses play in the interpretation of the plastic bag norms, which will be useful for putting in conversation with my pro-business sources.
- Convery, Frank, et al. “The Most Popular Tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish Plastic Bags Levy.” Environmental and Resource Economics, vol. 38, no. 1, 13 Sept. 2007, pp. 1–11. Springer Link, doi:10.1007/s10640-006-9059-2.
This is a scholarly article from the Environmental and Resource Economics journal in 2007. The authors write about the Irish tax on plastic bags, which began in the early 2000's as a result of cohesive government goals and consultation with the business sector. This source continues to emphasize the importance of considering the business sector when it comes to dealing with the plastic bags issue, as well as the effectiveness and consequences of possible legal bans as discussed in the original opinion piece. This article also brought up a key term I have not come across yet, "long-life bags," as alternatives for disposable one-time use plastic bags.
Podcast Episode Pitch Transcript
Hey, I’ve got a question for you: what do you love about plastic? Is it its immediate convenience? Its endless durability? How about that fresh sterility, the satisfaction you’ll be the only person on the planet to use it before tossing it? Now, what if I told you that those exact qualities actually make plastic a threat to you? For example, were you aware that plastic is the ideal breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos? Or that plastic can work its way up the food chain into human breastmilk? Pretty scary, isn’t it? And it all starts with your decision to take a free plastic bag at the grocery store.
Hi, my name is Gil Segev, and for my episode of the “Matter of Opinion” podcast I will be responding to an opinion piece from The Globe and Mail from January 2018, titled “Vancouver’s dream to be the greenest city? It’s just not our bag.” In it, the author compares Vancouver’s policies on plastic bags – or lack thereof, rather – to those found in other Canadian cities, and criticizes Vancouver for bowing to the plastic industry’s wishes. She even compares their efforts to those of the National Rifle Association - ouch! The author goes on to speak to plastic bag alternatives and their respective problems, in an attempt to paint a simplistic view of the issue that places bans as Vancouver’s ultimate best option. But, what if it’s not as simple as banning plastic bags? What if there were unintended consequences, or worse, what if we’re being distracted from bigger issues?
In response to the author’s critiques of Vancouver’s lack of policy on plastic bags, I will be presenting evidence from around the globe about the effects of plastic bags on the environment, how different countries have dealt with the issue, and how it ties into larger movements like Zero Waste and Anti-Consumerism.
Why should this matter to you? The reality is that no matter what position you take in the plastic bags debate, everybody is impacted by the decisions that our neighbors, businesses, and governments make. For example, do you fancy paying a shiny new tax on your bags? How about premium prices on reusables? Every individual wants the best for their family, but does that future include a landscape covered in plastic waste? Toxic food chains? The depletion of natural resources? This is particularly relevant for the hyper-consumerist societies of the developed world, as well as the developing countries that often shoulder the burden of dealing with our litter. This is truly a global, timely, and pressing issue, affecting the retail sector, manufacturing, everyday consumers, NGOs, and governments. This episode will cover the basics of plastic bag bans – how they reduce waste, for example – but also explore alternative views, such as the practicality of policy on changing behaviour. By the end of my episode, you will be able to form an educated opinion on the subject and join the fight for or against plastic bags. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to break up with plastic.
- Ritch, Elaine, et al. “Plastic Bag Politics: Modifying Consumer Behaviour for Sustainable Development.” International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 33, no. 2, Mar. 2009, pp. 168–174. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00749.x
This is a scholarly article from the International Journal of Consumer Studies from 2009. The authors continue the conversation on the effectiveness and issues of plastic bag bans. They speak about the effects such legislature has on businesses, consumers, and the environment. This article was useful for my research as it brought up a lot of interesting concepts, such as the 30:3 phenomenon of thinking versus acting, and the positive steps that businesses can take to minimize bag usage without a true ban. While it is important to my research to understand the pros and cons of a ban, it is also important to know what the alternatives are, and this article helped me with that.
- Sharp, Anne, et al. “Proscription and Its Impact on Anti-Consumption Behaviour and Attitudes: the Case of Plastic Bags.” Journal of Consumer Behaviour, vol. 9, no. 6, 2010, pp. 470–484. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1002/cb.335.
This is a scholarly article from the Journal of Consumer Behavior from 2010. The authors discuss the South Australian ban on plastic bags and research they conducted on plastic bag attitudes before the ban, during the phase out period, and after the ban. They demonstrate their findings not as a success/failure for business, government, or the environment, but rather from the perspective of the consumers affected. This was useful to my research as it provides insight on consumer behavior and attitudes and the effects a mandated change has on them. It introduced the concept of 'anti-consumption' and I am now able to tie it into the Zero Waste movement and how the two relate.
- Zaman, Atiq Uz. “A Comprehensive Review of the Development of Zero Waste Management: Lessons Learned and Guidelines.” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 91, 15 Mar. 2015, pp. 12–25. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.12.013.
This is a scholarly article from the Journal of Cleaner Production from 2015. In it, the author provides an analysis of literature on the Zero Waste movement, seeking trends in studies on the subject. They look for factors such as locations covered, recommendations, and implications. This source was useful for my research primarily because it takes a retrospective view at the Zero Waste movement, and provides a helpful timeline of events related to its inception and development. It also brings up key points about weaknesses in the current waste management system. Finally, in talking about the successes and failures of Zero Waste, it sparked an idea in me about the possibility of misdirected efforts in narrowing on plastic bags to solve a far bigger issue.
- “Single-Use Item Strategy Oct 2016 Workshop Consultation Summary.” Single-Use Item Strategy Oct 2016 Workshop Consultation Summary, City of Vancouver, 28 Oct. 2016. vancouver.ca/files/cov/single-use-item-strategy-oct-2016-workshop-consultation-summary.pdf.
This is a government document from 2016 published by the City of Vancouver. It is a report on a series of workshops conducted by the City to prepare it for a Zero Waste future. The workshops gathered opinions, feelings, thoughts, and experiences from citizens and organizations about the topic and came up with six themes as well as a list of recommendations. This is useful for my research because it represents the collective conscious of Vancouver, and represents their commitment to reducing waste. It also shows a willingness to ban plastic bags despite the failure of government to do so. Going forward, I will be investigating what happened to reduce the momentum gained with this report.
- Bulman, May. “Queen Bans Plastic Straws and Bottles on Royal Estates after David Attenborough Documentary.” The Independent, 11 Feb. 2018.
This is a newspaper article from 2018 by the Independent. In it, the author writes about the Queen's plan to ban plastic straws and cups from all royal estates in Britain. This is in addition to other efforts to reduce the Royal family's carbon footprint, such as a renovation of Buckingham Palace to reduce energy consumption by 40%. This article is going to make a great example of how individuals and organizations can mobilize to make a difference in waste management. However, it also highlights the problem with using recyclables rather than simply reducing consumption. This will make a very informative and interesting case study for my episode.
- Statistics Canada. 2007. Households and the Environment. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-526-X. Ottawa. Version updated December 2012. Ottawa.
pub/11-526-x/2009001/part-partie1-eng.htm (February 19, 2018).
This is a statistical source from Statistics Canada, published in 2007. This document has a section dealing with how Canadians use plastic bags, including shopping and recycling habits. This source will provide legitimacy to my claims about how plastic bags are used in the Canadian context. If I am able to find more recent information, it will also provide a vantage point from which to judge any chances in behaviour.