Profiting Off the Cheap Disposal of Plastics, or Microplastics are Raining Down from the Sky

Microplastics are raining down from the sky.”

That is a sentence that should only exist in science fiction.

This is just one more externality associated with profit-driven production. The quest for profit will always drive cost-cutting and externalization is one of the most effective means of cutting costs. The entire price landscape would be different if we had to pay for the clean-up and proper disposal of these microplastics. In a sustainable economy they would be returned as an input to production. The high cost associated with properly managing their recirculation would provoke substitutions and innovations.

There are beneficiaries of this destructive and unjust externalization of costs. Many of those beneficiaries undoubtedly claim personal virtue – thrift, hard-work, foresight – as the reason for their financial success. The truth is that others subsidize their gains. The profitability of any plastic-using product depends on our ability to cheaply – or freely – dispose of plastic products where they get widely distributed into the global environment.

Dealing with our multi-faceted ecological catastrophe does not mean killing the economy. It means transforming the economy. Those who claim measures to address ecological destruction will produce economic harm are actually saying they benefit from the destructive status quo. They are not willing to sacrifice their own lifestyles to ensure basic liveability for others, including future generations.

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