Op-Ed: How can we fix our broken plastic recycling system? By Senator Tom Udall & Congressperson Alan Lowenthal to the LA Times / 21 February 2020
Dear Editor: We agree that the companies that make products containing plastic should be made accountable for the plastic waste they generate, and support Congressional legislation that requires that they “design, manage and finance waste and recycling programs” that are needed to recover and manage the plastics in their used products.
What isn’t mentioned is the other bookend to such a program: that we have to design and manage the plastics and other materials that go into the original products. We can redesign products and create more effective systems that use less plastic—or use other materials entirely—and we can increase the recoverability of plastic when the product is thrown away or no longer needed. At present, producers, consumers, legislators and municipal waste-management infrastructures exist in different orbits, comprising discrete parts of a fragmented production system. To solve the plastic crisis, we have to fix this.
The effects of this broken system manifest in global climate and health crises that grace the pages of global newspapers every day. Still, very little progress has been made. We must do more than rely on the efforts of companies and consumers who are peripherally committed to creating a more sustainable product landscape. Sustainable design cannot be an added benefit of the production cycle; it has to be a central tenet of the creation process.
We need both bookends—responsible design and robust cycling infrastructure—if plastics are to become a viable material…because right now, plastics get an F.
Laura Spence-Newhouse / consumerX
Heidrun Mumper-Drumm / ArtCenter College of Design