I share Constance Birch’s dismay expressed in her letter (June 2) about Harrisonburg having given the go-ahead for the SIBO plastics manufacturing company to establish a first USA headquarters of 12,000 square feet on Main Street. The DN-R reported that this global company will invest $2.6 million to partner with the nearby Montebello Packaging, supplying it with plastic bottle caps and closures.
That local leaders should approve this is astounding and shameful given the pending federal legislation under the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act that, among other things, will place a moratorium on permits for new and expanded plastic facilities.
Plastic is non-degradable as Ms. Birch wrote. It is choking the oceans as well as the world’s waste landfills. Marine life, land animals, birds and insects die from ingesting microplastic particles. Our own food chain is thereby threatened. And are you aware that microscopic plastic is also common in our tap water in the USA. Plastic is everywhere; in packaging, toys, diapers, medical equipment and disposables, plant pots and most kinds of textile. Plastic is produced from petrochemicals. Such plants are often located in low-income communities and communities of color. In Appalachia, corporations make plastics from natural gas extracted by fracking. They churn out toxic pollution into the air and the prevailing winds blow the pollution into the Shenandoah Valley. As you know, they also leach toxic chemicals into the soil and water, contributing to cancer and other chronic diseases.
Wealthy countries generate the most plastic waste and the USA is the worst offender at 232 pounds of plastic waste per capita per year. The 10 worst plastic polluter companies are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Unilever, Mondeléz International, Mars, Proctor & Gamble, Philip Morris International, Colgate Palmolive, and Perfetti van Melle. This is according to “The Solving Plastic” issue of Yes! magazine, summer 2021, page 54.
Some innovations offer hope for change; for instance, Tasmania pioneered paving roads with reused plastic asphalt. But progress is very slow. Grocery retailers have pledged to reduce plastic use (Kroger, for example) but very little has happened locally so far. Ironically, even food and herbal supplements advertised as organic, natural and healthy are packaged in non-recyclable plastic containers. Take a look at the bottom of your organic yogurt container; if it is recyclable, it has the number 1 or 2 in a triangle motif on the bottom; other numbers such as 5 or 7 signify indestructible. The non-recyclables end up being burned in waste facilities or buried and so they contaminate our air, soil and waterways.
I try to use as little plastic as possible, for instance, substituting glass, beeswax and reusable shopping bags, and recycling plastic items where I can. But it is a frustrating effort. I take recyclables to the landfill (as do many of us) in the hope they are disposed of in an environmentally beneficial manner. But my remaining trash is usually still mostly plastic, mostly wrapping and containers. And we all see our parks, streams and roads littered with plastic bottles and fast-food containers.
We urgently need to foster a culture of plastic reuse, recycling and, above all, substitution with natural, healthy, degradable substances. Please make it known to your city, state and federal representatives that you do not want them to encourage continued use of plastic by establishing the SIBO facility in our neighborhood. Yes, 24 new jobs, but at the cost of our own health and that of all the world’s children. Please make a fuss about the city’s action.
Linda A. Dove lives in Rockingham.