Better to recycle than to ban

Criminalizing the possession of plastic straws is the latest feel-good edict wrought by clueless politicians.

If we are going to outlaw plastic straws, we should form an Environmental Protection Agency SWAT team to pursue and arrest whoever ended the manufacture of return-deposit glass bottles. The perpetrators should be sentenced to cleaning up the plastic debris suffocating Mother Earth.

Our environment was much cleaner with Coca-Cola and other soft drinks produced in glass bottles.

I want all businesses to make a profit. A strong economy makes a nation stronger. Nevertheless, increasing a company’s bottom line with cheaper and lighter nonreturnable plastic has created a worldwide blight. Social media videos of floating and sunken islands of plastic waste are heartbreaking and nauseating. Empty plastic bottles have become a scourge.

Consumers purchase over 1 million plastic bottles every minute. Most of the purchases are driven by bottled water usage in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Fewer than half of plastic bottles are collected for recycling, and only 7 percent of those are made into new bottles. A recyclable plastic bottle is rarely recycled, and most end up in landfills or the oceans.

In Boulder City, thankfully, plastic bottles are not relegated to the landfill. They are picked up by an out-of-town recycling company.

My taste buds still crave the clear, clean taste of a Coke from an 8-ounce glass bottle. In 1962, a red vending machine near the local newspaper office in Forest City, North Carolina, dispensed a cold one for a nickel — a deal even back then. Yes, I was in the newspaper business long ago, delivering the Forest City Courier and the Charlotte Observer on foot and via bicycle. I was still learning multiplication tables, but I could sell newspapers.

As a military brat aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, I supplemented my grass cutting services and Navy Times and TV Guide sales by collecting returnable glass bottles. Often times, this entailed “dumpster diving.” Returning one bottle yielded a few pennies — nickels in today’s currency. We were recycling glass decades before recycling was cool.

The best dumpsters were near the Marine barracks, especially before an inspection or deployment. This was at the onset of the Vietnam War. I was still young and ignorant of this war until my former Little League coach, Marine Pfc. William George Blanchard, was killed in action. I later learned he was killed on my 13th birthday.

Here we are, a half-century later, and glass-bottled soft drinks are as rare as the readers of my column.

You seldom see wine or beer in plastic bottles. I am sure there is a valid reason, so I did some research.

I asked my friend John Rogan, a New York native who retired to Las Vegas almost 20 years ago. John is a retired state parole officer who rose through the ranks to the executive level during his 30-plus years of service.

Furthermore, he is pure Irish and therefore an adult-beverage connoisseur extraordinaire.

John told me the glass bottle enhances the taste of beer and wine. He jokingly added that after three drinks, taste doesn’t matter (at least to him it doesn’t).

To me, taste always matters, and I am sure a Diet Coke in a glass bottle would taste better, especially since the empty bottle won’t end up in a landfill or in the Pacific Ocean.

The majority of folks want to leave the world a better place. We should gradually bring back the return-deposit glass bottle for water and soft drinks. Entrepreneurs, young and old, housed and unhoused, would do their part to collect wayward glass bottles and return them for 25 cents each.

Banning plastic straws or plastic bottles will not clean up the oceans, regardless of which countries are at fault. However, a shift toward glass bottles with monetary incentives is a good start.

Dan Jennings is a 38-year law enforcement veteran. He can be reached at