Going for Green in Lyons
By Harlin Savage
The first part of the answer is simple. Fracking is the industrial process by which we get the fossil fuels used to make virtually all plastics, including the iconic plastic straw.
Like fracking, plastic has gained villain status in the environmental world. The material isn’t bad in its own right; the problems stem from the astronomical rate at which plastic is being produced and consumed. In fact, by 2050 the current plastics production of about 400 million tons annually is expected to quadruple. If we think there’s a lot of waste from single-use plastics now, just wait.
Even when it’s recycled—as just 9 percent of the plastic produced is—the growing need for disposal of plastics is creating headaches for cities and towns who bear the primary responsibility for trash and recycling. Because China no longer accepts U.S. imports of scrap plastic, those headaches have gotten worse. In short, what are they supposed to do with it all?
Which brings us to the second part of the connection between plastic straws and fracking in Colorado. A decades-old state law prevents any unit of local government from requiring or prohibiting the use or sale of plastic materials and products. You might hear it referred to as Colorado’s “plastic preemption.”
In other words, even if local officials want to ban disposable plastics like straws, they can’t. Likewise, the Colorado Supreme Court has struck down attempts by Front Range municipalities to ban fracking within their borders, and the battle over how far they can go to regulate fracking to protect the lives and health of residents is ongoing.
So where does that leave local communities? Between a rock and some hard plastic, for now, searching for solutions.
If you want to support a state-level action to reduce non-recyclable plastics, check out the petition to ban food-grade polystyrene foam at: http://www.ecocycle.org/take-action/reduce-plastic#polystyrene ban.