Miami Bucks Bottled Water for the Tap
Today, Mayor Tomas Regalado of Miami signed the Think Outside the Bottle pledge in recognition of the city’s commitment to not spend taxpayer dollars on bottled water. The Regalado administration has worked with city administrators to uphold the city’s policy to use tap water over bottled water.
“To be spending taxpayer dollars during a time like this on bottled water, when state and local governments deliver high quality tap water to nearly every household, sends the wrong message about our commitment to the tap,” said Mayor Regalado. "There is no reason for our residents to be buying bottled water when our tap water equals or may exceed the quality of the bottled water."
Miami is joined by more than 140 cities and 6 states from across the country who have taken action to reduce taxpayer spending on bottled water or to promote their public water systems, including the Florida cities of Coral Springs, Orlando, Clearwater, Tallahassee and Hallandale Beach.
“This is a no-brainer for our city,” said Mayor Regalado. “Our public officials are championing investment in public water systems since these systems provide needed drinking water, create green jobs and preserve the long-term viability of our most essential shared resource. It’s a win-win equation when states stop pouring taxpayer dollars down the drain and plastic into landfills.”
A study put forth by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests that closing the tap investment gap could create tens of thousands of jobs, and help generate tens of billions of dollars in GDP. Conversely, bottled water has a range of costs to taxpayers. For example, each year cities and states pay at least $42 million to dispose of plastic water bottles.
The Mayor’s sign-on comes several years after Nestlé Waters North America threatened to sue Miami-Dade County for radio ads promoting the county’s tap water over Nestlé’s bottled water.
“Over the last 30 years, the bottled water industry has manufactured demand for an essential resource that already flows from our taps. The marketing has been so effective that even the cities and states charged with the stewardship of our tap water are spending millions on bottled water,” said Think Outside the Bottle Director Kristin Urquiza, of Boston-based Corporate Accountability International—the organization leading the outreach to cities across the country. “This sends the wrong message about the quality of the tap and the pressing need to reinvest in public water.”
Today’s announcements come in response to the groundswell of public support mobilized for such official actions by Corporate Accountability International supporters across the country.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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