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Gov. Youngkin Gets Plastic Recycling Right With New Eco-Policies

glenn youngkin

Virginia Gov. Glen Youngkin has laid down a blueprint for other conservative politicians to follow in November.

Among his refreshing policy stances that range from empowering parents to tax cuts, the newly minted leader has acknowledged that you don’t need to kill jobs and regulate away convenience to protect the environment. [bold, links added]

Case and point: Mr. Youngkin announced that he would be repealing his predecessor Ralph Northam’s one-size-fits-all restrictive plastic regulations and replacing them with a commonsense approach.

Mr. Northam’s executive order, signed in March 2021, banned the sale or distribution of most so-called “single-use” plastics — a misleading label considering many products can be recycled into new uses.

The Northam ban extended to any state government institution, including parks, museums, and universities.

The main problem with Mr. Northam’s environmental policy was that it failed to take essential use into account. And for some banned plastic applications, the alternatives are even worse for the planet.

Plastic straws, for example, are frivolous for most people; consumers can easily choose to go without them. But, in reality, straws make up less than a tenth of 1% of all plastic used. So, bans would have a limited effect on pollution reduction.

Cotton alternatives to plastic bags provide a counterintuitive perspective. A recent report from Denmark reviewed by The New York Times shows cotton bags must be used thousands of times to break even with the carbon footprint of a manufactured plastic bag. 

The same goes for easily recycled plastic water bottles. Unlike straws and bags, plastic water bottles are essential.

FEMA has stockpiled bottled water to distribute during natural disasters or other tap water failures, such as lead contamination or broken water mains. (Last year, there were more than 650 reported local boil water orders in the country.)

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management also stockpiles pallets of water, which proved to be lifesaving during last year’s highly publicized winter storm that left interstate travelers stranded. Bottled water stockpiles are recommended by FEMA to be on hand in every home.

Mr. Northam’s policy forbade state facilities from having bottled water, leaving only sodas and juices as an option.

Knowing that water is the most popular packaged beverage in the U.S., many state agencies and universities began selling water packaged in aluminum.

Aluminum may seem environmentally friendly, but that notion is driven by another myth. The mining and production process for aluminum is dirty and dangerous.

Aluminum is made from bauxite, which when sourced from strip mines leaves nearby communities covered in the red dust that kills vegetation.

The dust has been tied to causing cancers and Alzheimer’s. Moreover, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, aluminum production releases perfluorocarbon.

That airborne pollutant has a global warming potential between 6,500 and 9,200 times as strong as carbon dioxide.

The production of aluminum cans emits twice as much carbon as the production of plastic bottles. 

And while aluminum can be recycled, according to a study by Keep America Beautiful, the cans are littered five times as often as plastic water bottles.

Mr. Youngkin recognizes that picking container winners and losers isn’t what the government should be doing and, instead, announced plans to make Virginia a leader in recycling.

The new policy will ensure the availability of plastics we need while cleaning up the environment at the same time.

Read more at Washington Times

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