Opinion | Real Solutions to Reduce Plastics Pollution

Two environmental organizations criticize the approach offered in an essay. Also: Trump’s MAGA army; Erdogan’s victory; canned music; A.I.; social media.
Opinion | Real Solutions to Reduce Plastics Pollution

To the Editor:

Re “To Keep Plastic Out of Oceans, Start With Rivers,” by Boyan Slat (Opinion guest essay, May 28):

When your bathtub is overflowing, what is the first thing you do? Find a mop or turn off the faucet?

Unfortunately, Mr. Slat’s projects for in-the-water plastic collection are mops. Big, expensive, technical mops, but still mops.

Meanwhile, the plastic pollution tap remains wide open. Plastic production is estimated to triple in the next three decades.

Only 9 percent of all the plastic waste ever produced since the start of this industry has been recycled. Also, a large portion of ocean plastic sinks and is out of the reach of surface mops. So the mop strategy has been tried. It has failed.

The effective solution, evident in the history of other antipollution campaigns, is to stop the problem at the source. That’s why California, Canada, Chile, France and indeed the European Union have passed laws mandating reductions in single-use plastic production.

Sadly, Mr. Slat’s plastic cleanup strategy distracts consumers, policymakers and philanthropists from the real solution, which is winning tough anti-single-use plastic pollution policies at the national and international levels.

Andrew Sharpless
The writer is C.E.O. of Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated to ocean conservation.

To the Editor:

As the second of five negotiation sessions for a global plastics treaty has just come to a close, we cannot afford to “prepare for a future in which humanity uses more plastic, not less,” as Boyan Slat proposes.

A decade ago, when Mr. Slat started the Ocean Cleanup, people were mistakenly focused on plastic pollution as an ocean “litter” issue. But we now know that toxic plastics and the particles they shed pollute Earth’s air, land and waters, as well as plants, animals and our bodies.

Plastics warm the climate. They pollute during extraction and refining of their fossil fuel ingredients, and during their manufacturing, transportation, storage, use and disposal. Plastics’ pollution disproportionately harms low-income and rural neighborhoods, as well as Black, Indigenous and other people of color communities.

An effective global plastics treaty will recognize plastic’s full costs, drastically reduce industries’ plastic production, and implement the plastic-free reuse, refill, repair and share systems we need to eliminate wastefulness — rather than enabling the problem to grow worse by distracting us with false solutions like cleanups and recycling.

Erica Cirino
The writer is communications manager for Plastic Pollution Coalition and the author of “Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis.”

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Wants to Party Like It’s 1776,” by Michelle Cottle (Opinion, June 5):

This has nothing to do with America, and everything to do with Donald Trump. He needs his flock to come to his aid as he is unable to fight for himself while he tries to hold off the criminal charges being leveled against him.

The big, tough guy will use his MAGA army to fight his fight for him. He will use American sentimentalism as his tool as he lies his way to ousting our democracy and installing himself as our monarch in chief.

There are so many Americans willing to fly the Trump flag alongside the American flag, it is truly alarming.

Bob Bascelli
Seaford, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “Turkey’s Election Is a Warning About Trump” (column, May 31):

While Bret Stephens is right to point out how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey leveraged nationalism to win re-election and what it might mean for Donald Trump, he did not highlight how Western leaders allowed this unlikely victory to happen despite Turkish economic conditions.

For more than 20 years, U.S. presidents from both political parties have turned a blind eye to Mr. Erdogan’s rising authoritarianism and egregious behavior by not holding him accountable and turning to Ankara’s role in NATO as a geopolitical trade-off. This type of transactional diplomacy is not only dangerous but also gives cover to despots like Mr. Erdogan who feel that they can say and do whatever they want with impunity.

In many ways, Mr. Erdogan’s victory says more about us than about him. We have only ourselves to blame.

Stephan Pechdimaldji
San Ramon, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Broadway Musicians Object to David Byrne’s ‘Here Lies Love’” (Arts, June 1):

It isn’t only Broadway musicians who should object to the injection of all recorded music on a Broadway stage. People who come to Broadway expect something more than they could experience in some local production.

Theater is a living art. Audiences want to see and hear live actors and live musicians. Asking folks to spend hundreds of dollars to hear canned music doesn’t cut it. Broadway’s brand is first class. Canned music is not.

I have another reason to support the musicians’ union: Before I was a first-night critic, I was a performer. Often our only rehearsal breaks came because of union support.

Leida Snow
New York
The writer is a former critic at WINS-AM.

To the Editor:

Re “A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,’ Tech Leaders Warn” (front page, May 31):

The more than 350 leaders in artificial intelligence aren’t the only people scared to death by this fast-evolving technology.

Two-thirds of American adults believe that generative A.I. poses a threat to humanity, according to a national poll we conducted. Additionally, more than four in five agree that it would be simple for someone to abuse the technology to do harm. A majority also believes that regulation is warranted.

Business is clearly enamored by A.I.’s power, but across all income and education levels, society worries that this new marvel may be the atomic bomb of the 21st century.

Will Johnson
The writer is the C.E.O. of the Harris Poll.

To the Editor:

Re “Advisory Says Teens Face Risk on Social Sites” (front page, May 24):

While I agree with the sentiment in the article about the surgeon general’s warning that social media may harm children and adolescents, I wonder why there is not more of an emphasis on what we can do than what we shouldn’t do with social media.

As an aging millennial, I know that social media is here to stay. What if we invested in promoting content that improves, not harms, users’ lives instead?

A wealth of research shows that engaging in art education builds strength across the life span and in the very workings of our brains. As the pandemic proved true for many, including me, social media is a robust art and arts education platform, from YouTube tutorials to communities of artists on Facebook to TikTok’s short-form content teaching techniques.

Young people deserve the time and space to engage in the visual learning of art education, which can very well begin with the social media we fear.

Lindsey Frances Jones
New York