Uganda steps up the war on plastic

Let's all please take just a moment and look around ourselves. How far do we have to look to find something made with plastic?

In truth, we don't even have to look away from our computer monitors to complete the exercise. The plastic is there -- and it's laughing at us.

Uganda's leading Web site, New Vision, has published a report which outlines the drastic government sanctions being placed upon plastics there. Basically put, in Uganda, single use plastic is being outlawed.

Effective January 2010, people who are caught utilizing certain consumer plastics in Uganda could face fines in excess of $1,000 and jail time of up to three years, or both.

In addition to making plastic a contraband item, the government of Uganda has told the manufacturers of consumer plastics there to shut down and pack up their operations.

Evidently however, the government hasn't yet determined what actions to take regarding imported plastics such as those which arrive as wrapping for clothing items. Under consideration is a requirement that these items be unwrapped at point of entry, similar to the practice which is employed by Uganda's neighbor, Rwanda.

The plastic upon which we consumers have become so mindlessly dependent, now threatens the health of each and every one of us. In fact, it threatens the health of our entire beloved planet. You see, once discarded, plastic doesn't just go away. It does not readily biodegrade. It hangs around like a stray dog we made the mistake of feeding. It packs into landfills, fouls our waterways, and contaminates our landscape.
Some people say that single use plastic is an evil which must be purged from our lives. In consideration of the reported plastic flotilla which apparently now claims area in the Atlantic Ocean equal to twice the size of Texas, it's hard not to agree with those people. "Plastic soup" is becoming an increasing problem which is global in scope.

Now the question of the day is, to what extent are we consumers here in America ready to alter our attitudes about consumer plastics, and to what degree is technology prepared to deal with the issue?

The Earth Resource Foundation reports the following figures related to disposable consumer plastics and other litter in the state of California: "Statewide disposal costs: $72 million per year. The state will spend in excess of $72 million annually to collect and dispose of disposable cups & bags. 520,000 tons of material landfilled (50 tons recycled) multiplied by statewide average collection and disposal cost of $140 per ton."

The above figure represents the cost of handling those disposable plastics which the various programs already have a handle on. When you add in the costs of actual clean up of fugitive plastics and mitigation of the damage they can cause, the costs become staggering. The full report on costs from the Earth Resource Foundation is a real eye opener.

It may be time once again for us as consumers to weigh our needs for convenience against their affect on our planet. Biodegradable options may prove to be a bit more costly at the outset, but they tend not to sneak back up on us at a later time.
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