NEWBURYPORT — Citizens for Sustainable Bagging founder Janine Brunell Looker wants to change the city of Newburyport in a big way.
Most people don’t understand or have any real knowledge about the effects of plastic pollution or they don’t care, said Brunell Looker. And the only way you can have an effect within a larger community and to effect change is to “mandate change.”
The change Brunell Looker is looking for is to cut down drastically on plastic bags distributed in the city. She began the Citizens for Sustainable Bagging group a little over a year ago to try to create legislation on the issue that would either place a per-bag fee on consumers when they use plastic bags for the products they purchase or an out-and-out ban on the bags being issued themselves.
Brunell Looker said plastic detritus in the ocean has had a serious impact on the health of wildlife. Seals, birds and marine animals ingest plastic, often leading to death.
“Becoming responsible for bringing your own bags to the store is nothing compared to the effects that we don’t see.”
Looking for some boots on the ground, the citizens group has recently been working with Newburyport High School’s Environmental Club as well as the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI), a Canadian/American organization that works with students and adults in the stewardship of the Gulf of Maine.
Outgoing NHS senior and GOMI member Cyrus Woodman recently coordinated a public showing of the documentary “Bag It,” which included a community discussion with Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday, state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, and a representative from the office of state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport.
“A little plastic bag doesn’t seem like it will be a problem creator,” said Woodman. “But it does create a lot of problems in the community, whether it be the environmental (aspect) when you drive around town and you see them stuck in trees all over the place. That’s one of the problems and they can do a lot of damage in many different ways.”