From: Robert Ovetz, PhD, Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Published June 16, 2005 12:00 AM

The Growing Plastic Wasteberg -- An ENN Commentary

While I admire Mike Johnston’s efforts to find a short-term ways to slow the accelerated growth of the plastic wasteberg that threatens our planet ("A Reader Responds to America's Other Trade Deficit," May 19th, 2005), his reply to my commentary “America’s Other Trade Deficit” unfortunately resorts to name-calling and false claims that I am “short on hard science” in an effort to perpetuate the same myths about plastics that have confused and misinformed an entire generation.

Every quarter when I teach my students about recycling I ask them to tell me what the arrows shaped into a triangle with the number in the middle found on all plastic containers and some bags mean to them. Nine out of ten of them think it is the symbol for recyling. No other experience regularly reconfirms my conclusions that the plastics industry has mislead Americans into believing not only that plastic can be recycled by transforming it into other plastic based products but that it is safe.

Unfortunately, Mike failed to dispute to the science I referred to in my commentary. Since Mike’s letter was published, a peer reviewed scientific study at Tufts University found that bisphenol A in plastic consumer items such as food containers is linked to breast cancer in women. Another study that came out at the same time also found that phthalates, used in plastics such as baby toys, affects the genital development of baby boys. Other recent studies have found bisphenol-A can trigger autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis.

The only one in denial about these threats is the plastic industry and those that profit from the wasteberg. One need only look to the tobacco industry to realize how expensive that lesson can be for both people who use plastic and the industry.

I have spent this week at the UN where the world community has been struggling to get its arms around the crisis of plastic wastes filling up our ocean and killing and poisoning marine wildlife and polluting our coasts. It is not by accident that Japan just announced that it will join numerous other countries in banning “free” plastic bags. These bags may be free but they cost us a lot.



Robert Ovetz, PhD is an adjunct instructor at The Art Institute of California-San Francisco and an international ocean advocate with the California based Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

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