The state and local rules certainly have raised public awareness about the problem. Denying free plastic bags at checkout or providing plastic straws only on request sends consumers an important message that there’s a bigger cost to these everyday items than they may have considered. But the actual flow of trash has been disrupted only modestly.
…Cutting jobs on a disposable plastic product line doesn’t automatically translate into fewer people employed. If the door closes on polystyrene takeout containers, for example, it will open for cardboard and other biodegradable alternatives.
No one expects consumers to give up convenience completely. In fact, the market for bio-plastic alternatives, which are made from corn starch and other biodegradable sources, is already growing thanks to public awareness and the sporadic efforts to curb plastic waste.
Opponents will insist that the answer is just to encourage more recycling. Not only is recycling not the answer (see China’s diminished appetite for imported plastic trash), it has only enabled our addiction to convenient, disposable plastic packaging to deepen for some 60 years.