With the world becoming aware of the growing problem of plastic pollution we are facing, Scientific American notes that more recycling from consumers isn't going to make the problem go away. If anything, it brings to attention how corporations like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch managed — using the guise of environmental stewardship — to change the narrative by shifting the responsibility of pollution from the manufacturers to the consumer (and making a tidy profit in the process).
In fact, the greatest success of Keep America Beautiful has been to shift the onus of environmental responsibility onto the public while simultaneously becoming a trusted name in the environmental movement. This psychological misdirect has built public support for a legal framework that punishes individual litterers with hefty fines or jail time, while imposing almost no responsibility on plastic manufacturers for the numerous environmental, economic and health hazards imposed by their products.
Because of a legal system that favors corporate generation of plastic, plus public acceptance of single-use items as part of the modern economy, consumers who want to reduce their plastic footprint are faced with a host of challenges. We should carry around reusable beverage and takeout containers. We should avoid bottled water or sodas at all costs. When we have to accept a single-use plastic container, we should inform ourselves about the complex nuances of which types of plastic are acceptable (No. 1–3, but not No. 5?), which forms are acceptable (bottles and jugs, but not bags?) and where they can be deposited (curbside or at a special location?).
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