COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: In memory of Bob Nanninga

In case you hadn’t noticed, I hate single-use plastic. You might say it’s been my ‘PET’ peeve for the past decade. While there is growing concern in the public arena over plastic and Styrofoam, yes, petrochemicals, many people are still confused about or even unaware of their addiction to the bags and bottles that are fouling our precious land, streams and oceans.
I was recently at a UCSD event where I saw the same old, same old behavior … PET bottles everywhere. What are they thinking? These young people are the hope of the future, cream-of-the-crop university students who we trust to bring about positive changes in the planet.
Now picture the boardroom of a local alternative energy company where a dozen experts were recently discussing wind power. PET bottles all around, necessary I’m sure to prevent dehydration and certain death during an hourlong meeting. Green business leaders.
At my favorite sushi place, I can’t get a take-home container other than Styrofoam or plastic. I appealed to the owner that his business depends on the health of the ocean and fish. He didn’t get it, then blamed the suppliers, the guys whose e-mails I receive from an organization that promotes great packaging solutions, which are plastic, of course, that ends up in the trash. Recycled? I doubt it. Biodegradable packaging isn’t reliable yet, so I bring my own ceramic dish. If he doesn’t like it, I will do business elsewhere.
If you still aren’t convinced, go to or “ The Gyre.” Did you see Katic Couric’s interview with the producer of “Tapped”? We are inundated with plastic in every venue from sporting events to outdoor concerts to gyms, fast-food restaurants, most coffee shops, every shelf in the supermarket or health food store … Yikes! How do we avoid single-use plastic?
There is hope. Many people are carrying reusable bags and aluminum bottles. Many have installed home water filtration systems. The State Legislature is about to vote on AB 1998 (Bag Ban). The grocers and retailers are supporting it. California led the way with legislation banning cigarette smoking and we will do it again with this issue. This is all good news for business, for the individual, and for the planet, but why do I still hear about changing the light bulbs, keeping the tires inflated, and driving a hybrid car as if that’s all we needed to do? Yes, of course I have replaced my lawn with a rock garden and I love it! And, yes, we need to reduce our dependency on nonrenewable resources like oil. Plastic is an oil by-product, which is shipped on tankers fueled by oil. There are so many reasons why we must address our plastic addiction. How about reduce, rethink, refuse, recycle? How about some closed-loop marketing, producer responsibility, more public school education about the seriousness of marine debris in the watershed and the oceans, and the truth about the failure of recycling?
Oh dear, another crisis to ruin your day! Am I sounding sarcastic and mean? Do you remember the editorial sass we used to get from Bob Nanninga? I found him to be abrasive much of the time, but he was respected for telling it like it is. He cared about the planet and objected to the damage we are inflicting on it. Regardless of your politics, he wanted us to think about this stuff. He’s watching us.

Contact Celia Kiewit at


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