Less plastic, more food waste?
Fri Jun 17
Stolen steaks, rotting bananas, torn bags. These are just a few of the negative consequences one U.K. supermarket chain had to face after making the noble decision to move permanently away from plastic packaging by the end of next year. But it has been less than straightforward as initial efforts have taught the grocer that:
- Shoplifting is easier — wrapping steaks in paper makes it easy to fold the products and shove down clothing to steal.
- Produce life and quality takes a hit — bananas ended up shrinking 20%, rotting faster, and breaking apart. Sales then fell 30%.
- Packaging can fail in handling — when replacing potato bags with paper ones, the paper bags easily ripped during basic handling thanks to the necessary vent holes punched into them.
Still, the grocery chain is determined to make their plastic-free dreams a reality, recognizing that it’ll take a few iterations to replace decades of plastic packaging norms. So far, they’ve already found that punching smaller holes in potato bags, for instance, allows the paper to maintain its structure when handled. Some of the change will hinge on getting customers comfortable with the changes. For example, consumers will have to get used to buying bread in paper packaging that doesn’t show the contents.
The effort comes amidst a new tax Britain introduced in April on all non-recyclable packaging. With a goal to curb the production of single-use plastics, the tax would cost manufacturers $262 per ton of any plastic made of less than 30% recycled materials. While the move may raise costs for consumers (causing alarm given the still rising inflation), the measure intends to save over 200,000 tons of carbon emissions in the first year alone.
Similar trends are emerging elsewhere.
- Just this week, Canada announced a ban on single-use plastics starting December 2022. This would include checkout bags, cutlery, straws, and more.
- And in California, a ballot measure seeks to reduce plastic production for single-use products such as shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25%.
Below the Fold Bytes
Does Money Hurt the Cure for Cancer?
A new drug trial found a 100% success rate recently, resulting in all 14 patients being cancer-free without any side effects by the end of the trial. Similarly promising results are expected by another group currently undergoing the trial. And while many are celebrating, others are hesitant, pointing to a long-standing (and unfortunately misinformed) opinion that a cure for cancer is impossible, not due to technology but economics. They claim big pharma makes extensive profit off the treatment of cancer and is thus hiding the cure, which is a glaring misunderstanding of cancer itself as well as treatment research.
Fake Followers, Real Consequences
The bots we know are annoying, but others are truly harmful. Iranian feminists, abroad and in Iran, are being targeted online with armies of bots and troll accounts that are drowning out their voices and diluting their Instagram. Worse, Instagram seems unbothered by their plight with content policies that fail these users. In the fight against the Iranian government, activists are asking Meta (parent company of Instagram) to develop better security measures and policies that will protect their speech against a government known to enact internet shutdowns and data throttling in silencing dissidents.
Action of the Week
Want to talk to your representatives about single-use plastic bans in your state? The National Conference of State Legislatures has summarized which states have made what progress, so you can learn from others and advocate for your own!
- Wall Street Journal: Paper over plastic struggles 1 week old | 14 minutes long
- Quartz: Britain plastic tax 3 months old | 2 minutes long
- KCRA: California plastic bill 1 week old | 7 minutes long
- CNBC: Canada plastics ban 4 days old | 12 minutes long
ASCII-ing About the News
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Why are you following me?!
I like you a bot.
Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive