Should We Ban Single-Use Plastics?

October 16, 2019 12:00 pm — 1:30 pm
Washington, DC (and webinar)

An ELI 50th Anniversary Seminar

Millions of tons of plastic enter the environment every year, killing wildlife, releasing toxins, clogging drains, and marring landscapes. Bans or restrictions on single-use plastics—most commonly bags and straws—have exploded in popularity recent years as a means of addressing these problems. Over 125 nations and 240 U.S. cities and counties have banned or taxed plastic bags, several cities have banned or otherwise restricted the use of plastic straws, and several private companies, including Starbucks, have also taken steps to reduce their straw usage in response to widespread consumer pressure.

Yet, these bans remain controversial. Some businesses have pushed back against what they consider excessive regulation. Those in opposition have noted that some populations, including those with disabilities, may require the use of a plastic straw, and that taxes on plastic bags may constitute a regressive tax. Even the environmental benefits are far from certain: when plastic shopping bags are banned, use of other bags that are potentially worse for the environment –including thicker plastic bags using more plastic, or paper bags, with a larger carbon footprint – increases. Others maintain that banning single-use plastics uses valuable political capital that could instead be spent advancing more urgent and system agendas like transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Our panelists explored the benefits and challenges of an increasingly popular, and increasingly contentious, approach to the problem of plastic pollution.

Lillian Power
, Environmental Protection Specialist, District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), Moderator
Catherine Plume, Principal, BlueGreen Plume, LLC and Managing Director, (r)evolve
Matt Seaholm, Executive Director, American Progressive Bag Alliance
Jean-Cyril Walker, Partner, Keller and Heckman LLP

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