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Why Haven’t We Banned Single-Use Plastics in the United States?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Single-use plastics: plastic bottles, grocery bags, food takeout containers, cutlery, six-pack rings, etc., contribute heavily to the destruction of our environment. 

There really is no part of the single-use plastic cycle that does not have a negative impact on the planet. Producing plastic emits abundant amounts of greenhouse gasses, which pollute the Earth’s atmosphere. Most single-use plastics cannot be recycled, so once they are used and thrown away, they end up in landfills. All of the plastic ever produced still exists somewhere because plastic does not decompose either. If plastic does not end up recycled or “properly” disposed of in the trash, it ends up consumed by animals or littering streets and oceans. 

Single-use plastics are so harmful to the environment that many countries around the world have at least a partial ban on their usage. Even some U.S. states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont have implemented bans. Unfortunately, the United States has not federally banned single-use plastic usage. 

In the United States, people tend to do things the simplest way, and using the plastic products provided at check out or in restaurants is no exception. It definitely is more convenient to not bring your own reusable grocery bag or coffee cup and use the plastic containers or bags stores and restaurants provide for free. Even though I remember my reusable shopping bag most of the time, there is always an unplanned trip to the store where I end up using something plastic because it is easy to do so.

If it was less convenient to use single-use plastics, fewer Americans would use them. The eight states who have banned single-use plastics show it can be done in the United States. So why does the majority of our country still allow single-use plastics to be cheap and convenient for producers and consumers? 

Some don’t think single-use plastics should be banned because they are cheaper to produce than sustainable alternatives. This is applicable in America since cheapest is often considered best despite quality or the environmental impact of production. However, this argument fails to mention that sustainable alternatives last longer and less waste is created when you are not throwing away the materials after one use. 

Others point out there are bigger contributors to the climate crisis, and they need to be addressed instead of focusing on single-use plastics. This seems counterintuitive since most movements do not start big; they start small. If single-use plastics are considered a small contributor to the climate crisis, then why not start with banning them? 

Even though single-use plastics are not banned in the United States, you can still avoid consuming them. Doing something is better than nothing, so even if you use a reusable bag at the store half of the time, that is better than not at all. If you do end up with a plastic grocery bag, find ways to use it again. Reusing what you already have is important. Instead of buying sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives, check at home to see if you have anything you can use. If you feel strongly about this topic and want the U.S. to ban single-use plastics, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Congressional representative and voice your concerns.

Maddie Quigley is a political science major with a minor in media studies. She is a vegetarian, plant-lover, avid reader and she enjoys talking politics.
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