The problem of plastic pollution has gotten dramatically worse as production has surged without much thought to what happens once it is discarded. Bans on singleuse plastic such as bags and straws have become a popular policy around the world to rein in plastic use. Although some of these rules have reduced waste in places, they do not directly address production and can send users to alternatives that are not much friendlier to the environment.
Researchers have learned enough about the flow of plastic waste to know it poses a widespread environmental problem. Plastic causes physical harm to animals and could combine with other threats to endanger vulnerable species. There is also concern about humans inhaling and ingesting microplastic. We must do a better job of stanching the flood. Doing that means tackling two broad goals: considerably reducing the amount of plastic we produce and improving the recycling and reuse of what we make.
The U.S. must be a bigger part of these solutions. Blame is too often laid solely at the feet of rapidly developing Asian countries that lack robust wastemanagement systems, and we forget the role that the U.S. plays not only in producing plastic but by exporting millions of tons of the waste to Asia. With the U.S. local authorities responsible for an overwhelmed recycling system turning to landfills and incinerators, those options can have other environmental impacts and perpetuate the creation of virgin plastic from fossil fuels. Only 9 percent of plastic in the U.S. is now recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Federal and state governments should step up to help streamline and shore up the nation’s disjointed recycling system. Many researchers also say plastic product manufacturers need to be pushed beyond their present voluntary commitments to reduce plastic waste with incentives that will make them bear more of the cost of that waste. Countries are looking at such “extended producer responsibility” programs, which can include taxes on new products that do not have a certain percentage of recycled plastic, along with having producers pay toward the costs of collecting and recycling their products.
Each policy has its proponents and detractors, and it is ultimately up to lawmakers to decide which ones make the most scientific, economic and political sense. In the U.S., Congress has already shown it is willing to step in, with the 2015 MicrobeadFree Waters Act that banned these extremely small materials in personal care products. However, what we need are comprehensive solutions, not just BandAids that cover up the symptoms but ignore the roots of the plastic problem.
26. One flaw of the bans on single-use plastic is that .
[A] they are restricted to specific countries
[B] they can’t solve plastic pollution at its source
[C] they expose users to an unfriendly environment
[D] they only regulate the use of bags and straws
27. According to researchers, plastic is harmful because .
[A] it may threaten the life of some species
[B] it will cause digestive problems for people
[C] it’s hard for humans to take in microplastic
[D] it can bring about severe flood disasters
28. The U.S. must take more responsibility for the plastic problem due to .
[A] lack of strong waste-disposal systems
[B] its wrong options on fossil fuels
[C] incompetence in recycling plastics
[D] its irresponsible regulatory agencies
29. What is true of the “extended producer responsibility” programs?
[A] They are targeted at increasing national tax revenue.
[B] They push manufacturers to reduce plastic wastes.
[C] They prohibit the production of plastic products.
[D] They are voluntarily carried out by plastic producers.
30. Which of the following would be the best title of the text?
[A] Cancel Bans on Single-use Plastics
[B] Blame the U.S. for Plastics Pollution
[C] Find Band-Aids on Plastics Pollution
[D] Address the Plastic Problem at Its Roots