Citywide bans on plastic bags, straws and polystyrene takeout containers are sweeping the country at a rate that is somewhere between long overdue and not fast enough for advocates and alarmingly rapid and erratic for the plastics industry. Yet, much more can be done at the city level to prompt the systemic change needed to reduce plastic consumption and waste.
In the deep void of national leadership, systemic change on social and environmental issues must continue to come from the ground up, with cities leading the charge on issues ranging from climate change to gender equality. Bans and taxes have so far been the primary tool for cities to fight back against the plastic plague invading our oceans, beaches, streets and bodies.
Plastics in the ocean are front and center in the media and are rightfully driving a global groundswell of revolt against plastics use. But beyond this litter problem is the even larger global impact of toxic plastics production—fueling climate change and endangering the lives of our neighbors in plastics manufacturing communities like Louisiana and Texas. We need to take responsibility for the impacts of our plastics consumption on our climate and upon the health of our fellow citizens. This means incorporating plastics reduction strategies into other city planning initiatives, adding consumption-based accounting into our local greenhouse gas inventories and extending our social justice and equity goals to include residents in other communities.
In this gallery, we highlight five action steps for local governments to use to propel progress.
Kate Bailey is the policy and research director for Eco-Cycle and helps citizens, government staff and elected officials implement zero waste solutions.