This Week in the World – Coronavirus, Plastic Bag Ban Loopholes & Oil Ads

Other environmental news you may have missed…

THE CORONAVIRUS took the life of a man in the Philippians, the first reported death outside China, as worldwide cases passed 14,000. More than 50 deaths were reported in China in the last 24 hours. The virus crossed into the human population in the city of Wuhan, China, in early December. An estimated 5 million people fled the metropolis before travel restrictions were imposed, spreading the disease around China and the world. There are now 149 cases spread among 23 counties outside China.

The disease is less deadly than SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 to become an epidemic and killed about ten percent of those infected. The new coronavirus kills between one-half percent and three percent of those infected, but it’s spreading far more rapidly. At this point in the SARS epidemic, only about 1,000 cases were reported — one-fourteen of the current epidemic’s spread. Click here for live updates from the New York Times.

FOSSIL FUEL ADS will no longer run in The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected English-language newspapers. The British daily, which is considered politically left-of-center, released an editorial with the decision stating it focused on banning these ads because of the companies “foundational role in the carbon economy” and because of the damage their lobbying has done to the environmental cause.

The Guardian, like every newspaper, is struggling financially, but Guardian Interim Chief Executive Anna Bateson suggested the move may attract ‘green’ advertisers, as well as additional environmentally conscious readers, according to an interview in Heated. Bateson estimated one percent of the newspaper’s advertising revenue came from fossil fuel advertising.

NEW YORK’S PLASTIC BAG BAN is being criticized by environmental groups for loopholes that may allow state businesses to continue handing them out. The ban. which goes into affect March 1, still allows single-use plastic bags for things like carry-out food and dry cleaning. It also allows bags thicker than 1/100th of an inch to still be given out at any store, arguing the bags are reusable, but environmental groups say these thicker bags will be thrown out like their thinner counterparts.

These loopholes were not in the language of the law, passed last year, but instead were included in the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) proposed regulations on how the law is carried out.

The thicker bags would be too expensive for stores to hand out for free and are not currently being produced, according to the DEC, but former Hudson Valley-area DEC Administrator Judith Enck suggested manufacturers would be incentivized to begin producing them.

New Yorkers use 23 billion single-use plastic bags a year. and each bag is used for an average of 12 minutes before it is thrown away, according to the environmental groups.

Single-use plastic bags, made of polyurethane, do not biodegrade. Over the course of decades, they DO break down under the sun’s ultraviolet rays into microscopic granules, which enter the bodies of marine life, terrestrial creatures and humans. Since polyurethane products have only been around for about 50 years, it is not known when, if ever, these granules disappear from the environment for good.



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