Somebody ought to do something
Somebody ought to do something. vchal / Getty Images

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go just ONE DAY without feeling awkward guilt about all the plastic you’re responsible for chucking into the trash (or chucking into the recycling bin only for it to wind up in the trash anyway)?

Here’s the good news: A handful of ecologically-minded legislators (all Democrats, surprise!) have introduced a bill, SB 5022, that would overhaul the state’s rules about plastic, styrofoam, take-out boxes, and more, transforming the containers that your food comes in and reducing the amount of ocean-choking waste that winds up in your home trash can every day.

(At one recent hearing, Senator Ann Rivers noted that people “scoffed a little bit” at Senator Christine Rolfes’ plastics bill a few years ago, but now they understand that it’s a real problem. “I didn’t know everyone was scoffing at my plastics bill,” Rolfes responded.)

Now here’s the bad news: A handful of polluters is opposed to the bill, speaking against it at every opportunity and demanding changes and exemptions. Some of those opponents are the usual suspects (Republicans, styrofoam manufacturers, the bottled water industry), but a few of the roadblocks are particularly frustrating, such as Democrat Tim Sheldon (c’mon, man) … and, I regret to inform you, your favorite local butter-monger.

As a lifelong lover of consuming as much butter as possible, it brings me no pleasure to report that Darigold, headquartered here in Seattle, is among those who have come out strongly in opposition to the plastic cleanup. At recent public hearings, Darigold President of Consumer Products Dwayne Nalumi expressed strong opposition, noting that “fluid milk is a very important component of family nutrition” and that it sure would be a shame if they had to jack up their product prices (to pay for cleaning up all the garbage they produce).

Ugh.

Look, of course there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, and there’s no ethical way to buy food when it’s packaged in single-use containers made out of fossil fuels. I don’t think the solution is to install yogurt-dispensing nozzles in grocery stores, requiring that customers bring their own reusable bag to fill with whatever perishable dairy products they want. But somebody’s got to pay for cleaning up plastic waste, and the proposed bill makes sense: It requires that certain plastic containers be recyclable (which doesn’t mean they WILL be recycled, just that they CAN), it bans polystyrene containers, and requires restaurants to make plastic utensils and straws optional, rather than handing them out to every customer whether or not they want them.

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Some industry groups have been working with sponsors on wonky technical adjustments and clarifications, like figuring out whether liquid medicine should fall under the definition of a beverage. Okay, sure, that’s reasonable! That’s the kind of back-and-forth that every piece of legislation goes through.

But it sure is disappointing to hear companies oppose these reforms altogether, such as Maverik Convenience Stores and Dart Container Corporation (which was recently fined nearly $20,000 for violating environmental regulations in California). And it’s particularly unfortunate to see Seattle-based Darigold oppose the bill and demand a blanket exemption to it, as they did at one recent hearing.

That move puts them at odds with various environmental organizations, with the approximately 500 citizens who packed a recent video-hearing in support of the bill, and even with other industry groups that support the bill, including the Washington Beverage Association. And it puts them at odds with me, when I am at the grocery store, trying to decide which plastic container of yogurt I feel the least bad about buying.