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Green Economy

How Do We End Plastic? It Starts By Knowing What Works

Last year, CleanTechnica colleague Andrea Bertoli and I testified before the Honolulu City Council in support Bill 40, a groundbreaking piece of environmental legislation that brought about a phaseout of single use plastics, foam products, and other such rubbish from our island. Bill 40 passed with resounding support

Last year, CleanTechnica colleague Andrea Bertoli and I testified before the Honolulu City Council in support Bill 40, a groundbreaking piece of environmental legislation that brought about a phaseout of single use plastics, foam products, and other such rubbish from our island. Bill 40 passed with resounding support, with what we saw as the usual exceptions of councilmembers receiving large amounts of financial support from the American Chemistry Council. (Amazing to me that we simply accept what seems like the ACC’s outright bribery these days, since the extremely untruthful occupant in the White House has upped the game of what constitutes outright corrupt behavior. But I digress.)

bill 40 honolulu

What made Bill 40 so special was what you see behind my head there: an unfurled petition of thousands of signatures on oversized post-it notes by people who can’t yet vote but whose future is being determined by what we do now to stem the tides of plastic and climate change. It was surely effective, and now the Honolulu City Council is looking at adding a Youth Commission to help us build a future these kids will be proud to be a part of.

So, how can other communities pass legislation like Bill 40? Or is a more localized version more appropriate? The fossil industries have the American Legislative and Executive Council (ALEC) to do their work for them. ALEC crafts legislation that helps fossil industries, and then they hand it to legislators who’ve received large campaign contributions from them. Quid pro quo quid pro schmoe, right? The intermediary ALEC takes the fossil fuel liability out of the equation, making it seem like it’s not just the fossil industry bribing politicians and expecting something in return. (The American way, baby!) Then the legislator has two choices — introduce the legislation with no changes, and try to get it passed, or lose the fossil money and face a well-financed primary challenge in the next election from someone even farther to their political right.

So, where is the ALEC of the environment? Sure, there are groups that try to help, but they lack the >$100 billion profitable industry financing them, so their reach and scale are minimal. Thankfully, there are just amazing people everywhere, working within their sphere of influence to make things better.

If you or anyone you know is working on the plastics problem, the fine folks at the Nicholas Institute at Duke University have established a plastics legislation inventory. It’s far from complete — the aforementioned Bill 40 is not even on the list — but you can drill down by geo, by type of law, by year. It’s super helpful to find precedents for anything you want to do in your community.

 
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Written By

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 13,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 17 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.

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