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Opinion

Readers React: Plastic is really useful. We need to figure out better ways to recycle, not ban, it

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A family walks out of a Compton store with a cart full of plastic-bagged groceries in 2016.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: We can all agree on the importance of reducing waste and finding common-sense solutions to protect our environment. But the approach suggested in your Feb. 20 editorial, “Grocery bags and takeout containers aren’t enough. It’s time to phase out all single-use plastic, would do just the opposite, while depriving consumers of products we depend on for health and hygiene, like bandages, diapers, contact lenses and the majority of food packaging.

Part of the reason plastic is so widely used is that it allows us to do more with less material than alternatives, resulting in lower carbon emissions, reduced energy use and less waste. A 2016 study showed that switching from plastic to alternatives in consumer products and packaging would increase costs to the environment.

No one wants that, and no one wants plastic in the ocean either. Plastics makers are investing in solutions.

Our vision is for every piece of post-use plastic to be recycled or remade into raw materials for new products, including new plastic. Emerging technologies promise to make this possible, so the plastic we use today can become the plastic we’ll rely on — for health, hygiene and efficiency — in the future.

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Steve Russell, Washington

The writer is vice president, plastics division, at the American Chemistry Council.

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To the editor: Readers of the Los Angeles Times’ print edition opened the Tuesday paper to an editorial page reminding us that the oceans will fill up with plastic unless we take serious action. In the Business section, we learned that the world’s largest software manufacturer is demanding restitution from a guy who is trying to keep old computers out of the waste stream.

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The force of the go-go economy (which by definition is a throwaway economy) is making us behave in ways that make no sense.

We have the tools to keep plastic out of the ocean — by quitting our addiction to throwaway plastics. We have the technology to keep computers out of landfills — by making their operating software available.

We need to both reduce and reuse our stuff. And our economic and legal systems must keep up with that imperative.

Susan Rakov, Santa Barbara

The writer is director of the Frontier Group, an environmental research and advocacy organization.

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To the editor: One of the reasons I moved here from New York long ago was to avail myself of the beautiful Southern California beaches.

About 20 years ago, I noticed a disturbing trend: more and more plastic trash scattered throughout the sand and in the water. It became impossible for me to enjoy my time at the beach when all I was doing was picking up pieces of plastic trash.

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I hope your editorial will amplify calls for an end to this disastrous feature of modern life.

Doug Lenier, Valley Glen

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