The Environmental Issues Committee of the League of Women Voters of Indiana County
has recently produced “All About Plastic.” Using easy-to-read explanations along with simple
statistics and photographic evidence, the guide includes a brief history of plastic, its use in the
fashion industry and in technology, and the role of natural gas in its production. Finally, the
guide discusses consumer action to promote awareness and to reduce the use of single-use
plastics, as well as examples of actions taken by government and by businesses.
“All About Plastic,” is intended for those who don’t have a robust background of
environmental knowledge. While it shares a wide range of information, it homes in on our local
contribution to this global issue. Western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale deposits are rich in
ethane gas, making this area a magnet for plastic manufacturers. Pennsylvania government gives
massive subsidies to these manufacturers, as well as the oil companies, to persuade them to build
more infrastructure meant for producing plastics. They have every incentive to continue to
contribute to this crisis. (For more information, see the League’s comprehensive guide on Shale
Gas Extraction, first published in 2009 and most recently updated in 2018.)
According to the plastics guide, 8% of oil production becomes plastics for various uses.
The complications our world is facing due to plastic pollution parallels the issues arising from its
production. Air pollution resulting from the production of plastic is a problem in our area where
we have yet to reduce pollution to acceptable levels. In addition, the small plastic pellets (known
as “nurdles”) that are produced in the cracker plant to be made into everyday plastic materials
have been found in our waterways and in the oceans, where they soak up pollutants and become
toxic. They are small and easily mistaken for food by marine life, thus allowing more plastic to
enter the food chain.
This guide also showcases the contribution that legislation and large companies have
begun to take towards protecting our environment, as well as the steps that people can take in
their everyday lives to combat these problems. This guide is not all doom and gloom. The
LWVIC has highlighted immediate, practical actions that can be taken to reduce the use of
single-use plastic products: Instead of using plastic bags or plastic water bottles, substitute more
reusable options such as cloth bags, recycled materials bags, or stainless-steel reusable bottles.
Refusing single-use plastics requires some preparatory thought but carrying reusable takeout
containers, a metal straw, and a reusable silverware set can set you on a path towards making
more environmentally-conscious decisions that will create a ripple effect for greater change.
Click below to visit the League of Women Voters Website, where you can download a pdf version of the packet located on the right of the page.
Article written by Gabriella Millette, edited by Vera Bonnet