Finding plastic waste in every corner of the planet, even the unfathomable regions, is becoming more problematic than ever. Single-use plastics, including bottles, packaging, poly bags, cups, etc., are majorly to blame for the problem. They are mostly either abandoned at landfills or transported to the oceans since they are easily disposable. Plastic waste accounts for 80% of the 10 million tonnes of garbage that enters the water every year, and they continue to pollute the water for hundreds of years.
The Problem of Single-Use Plastic
Once discharged into the environment, plastic spreads across large distances owing to natural weather events such as rain and wind. The majority of them eventually enter water bodies from the landfills, causing havoc on both the ocean surfaces and floors. The problem also lies in production and recycling imbalance. While the production of plastic increases every year, recycling is only trending downward.
In 2021, only 5-6% of plastic was recycled in the United States. According to estimates, 22% of plastic waste is dumped in unsecured landfills, burned outdoors, or released in the open, equating to an annual release of 83.6 million tonnes of plastic into the environment. All of these point us to conclude that our actions only accelerate plastic pollution. Thankfully, global initiatives have helped in spreading a greater understanding of plastic pollution, sparking actions across the globe. These campaigns have also successfully persuaded people to make more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions and brands and organizations to take steps to move away from single use plastics. Among them is South Lake Tahoe and its recent ban on single-use plastic water bottles.
Single-Use Plastic Ban in South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe City Council, on October 4, 2022, officially adopted a tiered ban on single-use plastic water bottles (the City Manager will have the authority to decide ban-lift in case of emergencies). The first tier includes banning bottles smaller than one gallon in size for all civic uses beginning April 2023. The same law will apply for retail/ sales citywide in the spring of 2024, giving businesses and companies a larger window to gear up for the change. According to the officials, the vast quantity of single-use plastics production and consumption massively contributes to trash generation and pollution in the City. Discarded plastics that don't disintegrate or break down, in particular, puts water resources at risk because they gradually disintegrate into tiny plastic particles, which then find their way into lakes and rivers.
The Tahoe Environmental Resource Center (University of California Davis) found plastic in the majority of the samples collected from beaches near the lake. The research is holding plastic litter, particularly plastic bottles and bags, responsible for the microplastic debris, given Lake Tahoe is not exposed to wastewater.
According to Sara Letton, the City's sustainability coordinator, the most sustainable course of action when it comes to sustainability is reduction. Among the numerous wonderful experiences is the award-winning tap water of South Lake Tahoe, and the City intends to continue offering that by curbing its plastic use. "We aim to find ways to support an already roust 'Drink Tahoe Tap' marketing campaign and look forward to working with our business community to help them embrace this opportunity to participate in the stewardship of Lake Tahoe," said Letton.
As part of this new shift, the City plans to set up water bottle-filling stations at key sites across South Lake Tahoe. Additionally, it will collaborate with neighborhood partners on education and outreach activities to encourage refilling water bottles over buying plastic bottled drinking water.