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A Miss On Plastic Waste

August 19, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 33

The business article on plastic waste misses a big part of the problem: our addiction to single-use throwaway items (C&EN, June 24, page 26). Refillable beverage containers save money and materials. Single-use throwaway items should be banned or taxed to encourage a shift back to reusables. Ireland achieved a 90% reduction on the use of plastic grocery bags by putting a tax on them.

A system in the Netherlands monitors, by gas chromatography, the headspace in returned water bottles. If anything unusual is found, a jet of air blows the bottle off the line. Bottles that pass the test are reused. General Electric marketed bisphenol polycarbonate bottles for orange juice that averaged 25 return trips and half-pint containers for milk that averaged 100 return trips. After this, the containers were made into crates to carry new bottles. Customers who brought in a used container received a discount on buying a new one. Although this polymer is no longer accepted for use, Eastman Chemical’s replacement copolyester, Tritan, could be used in the same way.

Bottled water is a waste of materials, energy, and dollars. Some cities, including San Francisco, have banned it already.

Albert S. Matlack
Hockessin, Del.


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