Plastic Consumption: Environmental Public Policy

The Notion of Public Policy in the Context of Environment

Every world citizen is an individual who cannot fully exercise his or her will without considering the rights and freedoms of other people. For these reasons, various behavior patterns have been implemented in the world community within the past centuries. Practical recommendations and rules on how to manage conflicts and maintain healthy relations in society exist in the context of public policy.

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According to Potuček (2017), “public policy in practice serves to prevent and solve conflicts, a natural trait of social life which is here to stay” (p. 15). Such communication patterns can be applied to practically every life aspect. One of the most discussed topics nowadays is the global issue of the environment and the ways of its preservation. As this problem is relevant across the globe, public policy is considered to be quite effective in terms of spreading information worldwide and introducing joined efforts of preserving environmental safety to a broad audience.

One of the most severe environmental issues today is the problem of plastic usage reduction. The world’s leading nations are nowadays paying much attention to the ways of establishing ecological awareness and conscious plastic consumption among their residents. The most well-known promoters of ecological tolerance in the world arena are the US and the EU governors and activists. However, even though they both try to save our planet for future generations, their public policy tools differ for several reasons.

A lot of people ask whether one of these policies is more efficient in terms of the overall current environmental situation. Having analyzed plastic policies of both governmental systems within the last decade, I would say that both of them are crucial for particular societies they represent, but none is universally acceptable.

The Issue of Public Environmental Awareness

People, regardless of their national, ethnic, or cultural affiliation, have the right to live in a safe environment. However, over the last decades, this right has, to some extent, lost its power due to the appalling environmental modifications happening in the world. For this reason, people nowadays are responsible for maintaining a healthy environment on our planet, and public policy is, by all means, one of the main constituents of this responsibility. The world community should then have access to all the information connected with the current environmental state of the planet to take steps for the improvement of this condition (Palilingan, Setiabudhi, & Palilingan, 2018).

If previously, people were not able to be fully aware of the ongoing environmental processes due to the lack of information availability, now it depends on the simple willingness to help. Public policy, which consists of various international negotiations and voluntary campaigns, proves that literally, every resident of our planet is responsible for the change. Technological advancements are now also beneficial in terms of information sharing as well as cross-cultural communication.

Speaking of the US environmental public policy, the system has undergone some drastic changes during the last years. It was previously thought that people are to define the level of their ecological commitment, but such an attitude has eventually lead to some serious implications for the ecosystem. When the situation became almost uncontrollable, the government decided that they should act immediately to save the global environment (Theodoulou & Kofinis, 2012). As a consequence, the project on plastic use reduction was created.

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The peculiarities of the US plastic policy

The issue of plastic over-consumption has recently become a serious threat to the world environment and the US ecosystem, in particular. The most dangerous item that stands behind this hazard is the broad usage of plastic bags. According to 2015 data, Americans reportedly threw away 100 billion grocery bags (Li & Richter, 2015). The obvious solution to this problem was to implement the plastic ban across the states.

Almost half of the US states embraced the idea of reducing plastic consumption, including grocery bags and various wrapping materials. This action towards the improvement of the environmental situation may not, at first, seem beneficial on the global level. However, the ban on plastic bags is one of the few ways of environmental public policy in countries such as the US. Its residents differ significantly in terms of economic sustainability, and thus, are not always able to think of the environment in the first place.

It is a well-known fact that all the goods that are now produced were introduced to the global market only because of the economic benefits regardless of their harm to the ecology. For this reason, residents and business owners now find it difficult to reject environmentally dangerous goods. According to the researchers, American residents tend to give preference to more available rather than more eco-tolerant products (Li & Richter, 2015).

The income levels vary greatly across the country due to its significant territory and multiculturalism. That is why the government cannot implement restrictions concerning the environment on the legislative level. The only thing left is the public policy and availability of information about how plastic impacts our planet so that people could decide whether they can afford an ecologically friendly lifestyle.

The peculiarities of the EU plastic policy

The economic systems of the European countries vary considerably if to compare them with the economy of the United States. The average income levels are relatively higher in the European countries, and there is no economic gap between different social layers. For this reason, the governmental bodies of the EU find it easier to establish public policy in terms of plastic use as their residents are economically able to maintain eco-tolerant manufacturing across the country. At least two serious plastic policy projects were approved in 2019 on the EU governmental level (Mederake & Knoblauch, 2019). Hence, the ecological activists in Europe have the opportunity to reduce the plastic use level not only in the context of individuals but in the overall economic system.

The Major Constraint in Environmental Plastic Policy

Speaking of the environmental public policy all over the world, and in the US and Europe, in particular, one may notice that the approaches to the issue are quite different. The US government, for example, cannot take severe measures in plastic use reduction as the income rates of the majority of the population are not satisfactory in terms of exploiting eco-tolerant materials. Although this approach is acceptable for US residents, it is not beneficial for the current environmental situation in the world.

The EU countries, on the contrary, take serious steps towards the issue resolution and limit the use of plastic on the legislative level. However, such an approach is also very subjective as it cannot be applied to countries with lower economic conditions. Thus, considering everything, it should be concluded that the global environmental public policy needs an exhaustive system of issues resolving to be applied by every nation regardless of their economic state.

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Li, Z.G., & Richter, J.S. (2015). Problem and countermeasure on promoting the plastic bag ban of USA. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 768, 787-796.

Mederake, L., & Knoblauch, D. (2019). Shaping EU plastic policies: The role of public health vs. environmental arguments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16, 1-18.

Palilingan, T. N., Setiabudhi, D.O., & Palilingan, T.K.R. (2018). Environmental policy, public health and human rights: Assessing the regional regulation on waste. Hasanuddin Law Review, 4(3), 339-347.

Potuček, M. (2017). Public policy: A comprehensive introduction. Prague, Czechia: Karolinum Press.

Theodoulou, S.Z., & Kofinis, C. (2012). The policy game: Understanding U.S. public policy making. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.

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