, Newburyport, MA


March 25, 2014

Banning plastic bags is only the start

To the editor:

I am proud to learn of Newburyport’s local efforts to join the growing international web of communities making statements of stewardship and leaving plastic bags in the past. We are way overdue on this one. I hear those of you infuriated by the inconvenience. Sure, plastic bags are convenient — as are most single-use items that litter our streets, rivers, beaches and oceans. Convenience is great when it’s an added bonus of something that is already good, when it’s the icing on a harmless cake. But it is hardly a reason to keep doing irreversible damage to our treasured coastal environment.

I also hear those of you balking at the insignificance of one small city banning one category of plastic. I prefer the term, “low-hanging fruit.” Simple life changes like this serve as important daily reminders that we need to make conscious decisions about the impacts we are having on this planet.

Three years ago, I spent a college semester sailing in the South Pacific with the Sea Education Association. We sampled the water that carried us multiple times a day, and found one startling consistency that continues to keep me up at night: plastic. Tiny particles of indistinguishable plastic that, once tested for their physical properties, tend to reveal themselves as the materials used to make common household items, such as milk jugs, drinking straws, and yes, plastic bags.

So for those of you concerned that this solution isn’t big enough, I’m with you. Let’s go bigger. Let’s get the trivial stuff out of the way, and really dig in to one of the most daunting challenges of our time. Small successes inspire big successes, they’re the seeds of positive momentum. Challenge yourself to refuse single-use plastic in every part of your life, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Share your creativity here — let’s really get this conversation going!

Plastic poses a seriously disgraceful threat to marine and coastal environments, and as a coastal community, we should want nothing to do with it. Let’s take pride in being part of the solution.

Amber Hewitt


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