DC Bans Single-Use Plastic, More New 2022 Climate Change Laws, Aquamation: A ‘Green’ Cremation Alternative

by | Jan 7, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

DC bans single-use plastic, plus more new 2022 climate change laws. Aquamation: A ‘Green’ Cremation Alternative.



An environmental regulation passed by the D.C. Council in 2020 — the Zero Waste Omnibus Amendment Act — has several provisions that take effect Saturday. Most affect the government and trash collection companies, but residents might notice one: Restaurants will be barred by law from simply giving out plastic ware with every meal.

Instead, they must only hand out plastic forks and spoons to people who ask for them — an idea meant to keep unwanted plastic from ending up in landfills. The law also requires food-delivery apps to offer an option on their order forms asking D.C. users whether they want sporks with their fries.

The Department of Energy and Environment will scroll through those apps in the new year to make sure they’re following the law, said D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who first introduced the zero-waste bill in 2019.

This speaks to last year’s story we did on the #cutoutcutlery campaign waged by Sheila Morovati, founder of habitsofwaste.org. Morovati also coined the phrase, “zero use plastic” once she realized most people never use the plastic cutlery that comes with their meal.

Thanks to her efforts, uber eats and postmates changed the default settings on their apps so that users only receive plastic cutlery or straws upon request. DC government will first work to educate restaurants that violate the provision, offering grants to help cover any costs incurred by the change. After about six months, a fine will go into effect.




Two interesting climate helpful laws taking affect now in the DC metropolitan area include a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in our nation’s capital. This was initially approved in 2018, but its implementation was delayed to allow the city and others affected– like landscapers– time to switch to more eco-friendly electric leaf blowers or some other alternative. 

The ban comes with a potential $500 fine for violators. Leaf blowers can be as loud as heavy traffic. More importantly they cause health problems for people who breathe their fumes.

Here’s why gas-powered leaf blower bans matter to us: fewer ghg missions and environmental justice. Most chronic users of these blowers are landscape companies, staffed usually by latinos and other immigrants who also generally don’t have high quality health coverage or paid time off to deal with the respiratory issues associated with exposure to small bore gas engines.

Homeowners in Virginia who know that their property is a “repetitive risk loss structure” must disclose that fact to the purchaser of their home by using a form provided the Real Estate Board. Also Virginia enacted the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act: it’s a new state law requiring property owners of flood-prone properties to disclose that risk to potential renters.

Not to be outdone, Landlords in Texas ALSO will be required by law to alert tenants if the property they’re renting is in a 100-year floodplain. The Texas law requires landlords to alert tenants to any flood damage that occurred in the five-year time period prior to leasing.

Previously, only home sellers, not landlords, were required by law to disclose flood information. With both laws, landlords will also have to give leasers a notice that says most renters insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, so renters should also purchase a flood insurance policy.

And why do rental property flood plain disclosures matter to us? Economic and environmental justice.




Fairfax and Arlington counties in the state of Virginia, and the city of Alexandria will implement a 5-cent surcharge on plastic shopping bags that is aimed at curbing pollution in the region’s waterways, roads and open spaces — a step the District, Montgomery County and other area localities have already taken.

Local officials say the surcharge, which does not apply to plastic bags used to carry out meat and produce, is meant to change consumer behavior over time. Any revenue generated will go toward environmental cleanup programs, educational awareness and providing reusable bags to low-income residents who would be most affected by the extra cost.

Aline Althen, spokesperson for that county’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, said, “It would be great if we didn’t collect a single nickel, as that would mean people in Fairfax County are not using disposable plastic bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores.”

DEEPER DIVE: Fairfax.gov, NBC4, DCist



South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu died in December of last year. He was a champion of all things marginalized—including planet Earth. Even in his death, this eco-warrior walked the walk. Instead of being cremated, Bishop Tutu was “aquamated.”

Aquamation is a way to dispose of a body by water instead of fire.  It’s deemed a more natural, ethical, and environmentally-friendly alternative to cremation or burial. The concept itself isn’t new. Amos Herbert Hobson of Middlesex, England, patented the first alkaline hydrolysis machine all the way back in 1888. He used it to dispose of animal carcasses. 

Cremation involves organic matter. Aquamation uses just 10% of the energy used during a cremation process and there are NO air emissions.  No organic matter can be discharged from cremation chimneys, and no methane gas or toxic chemicals can leak from a burial casket which might seep into the water table.

Our bodies are actually 70% water, so this natural process simply returns us to a natural form and a natural component of our universe – h2O. 

The process is straightforward. Bodies are placed in a machine containing a chemical mixture of water and alkali. The mixture is then heated and cycled. Over the course of hours, the body is accelerated through its natural decomposition process, resulting in a residual liquid made up of amino acids, peptides, salt, soap and bones — the last of which is broken down into white ash.

Some solid bones remain, but these are generally ground to provide ashes if required.  And the water is returned to the earth, where it makes a fantastic natural fertilizer!

Aquamation is heralded as the new, truly environmentally friendly alternative to cremation or burial!  It’s becoming more accepted as a ‘greener’ alternative to a flame cremation.