Cutting Back On Plastic Pollution & Plastic Propaganda — CleanTech Talk

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In this episode of our CleanTech Talk podcast interview series, Zachary Shahan, Director and CEO of CleanTechnica, and Scott Cooney, Founder and CEO of Pono Home, sit down to talk about plastics. You can listen to the full conversation in the embedded player below. Below that embedded SoundCloud player is a brief summary of the topics covered, but tune into the podcast to follow the full discussion.

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Scott has been distracted from clean technology lately. The culprit? Plastics. While the two might be distinct topics, Scott has been fascinated with the ways in which there are crossovers between the two since fossil fuels play a large role in making plastic. When we look at holistic solutions to climate change, says Scott, we must take a closer look at our dependence on plastics.

Zach and Scott dive into why the challenge of plastics is such a daunting problem. To Zach, it feels overwhelming, as it brings up many unanswered questions about what the transition away from plastic looks like and how to actually effect that change. Scott agrees, noting that while the electric vehicle transition and shift to renewables has shown a clear path forward, things look different when it comes to plastics.

What is clear to Scott is that looking to industry to solve the problem is probably a case of focusing on the wrong culprit. The adoption of the recycle symbol on plastics was actually a public relations campaign run by the plastics industry to persuade the public that plastics could be recycled. In fact, less than 10% of all of the plastic ever created has been recycled. As Scott notes, it is still cheaper to drill for oil and have plastic sit in a landfill forever than it is to make changes for a more sustainable alternative.

Scott is a big defender of capitalism, but not as we experience it today. As long as big companies are able to push off costs to society, he explains, this system is not true capitalism. The fact that the average human being consumes approximately 5 grams of plastic per week, resulting in reproductive issues, shows clear negative externalities not accounted for in the market, Scott explains. He believes that true capitalism would mean that these companies producing plastics would be responsible for any of the negative externalities, all the way through the end of life of those products.

Zach and Scott spend time talking about free markets, externalities, and regulation, specifically how they all interact and relate to each other. What Scott hopes to do is reject the notion that capitalism is fundamentally evil, and instead talk about alternatives that allow us to have free markets without fueling climate change or littering our oceans with plastic waste. Scott believes we need free market solutions that are tangible, actionable, affordable, and functional to be able to transition away from plastics.

The two sustainability experts wrap up this episode of CleanTech Talk by talking even more about plastics, about local versus national action, and about what it is going to take to get to a point of global sustainability. To hear more on these topics, listen to the show!

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