, Newburyport, MA

April 4, 2014

Don't resort to paper bags

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I have thought very hard about my response to the plastic bag ban and would like to first address some concerns raised with the ban and second ask that people please not resort to paper bags if the ban is enacted.

The ban will have little effect on retail stores. It only encompasses the stereotypical thin plastic bags, not the thicker ones used by retail stores. The hope with the ban is that by starting with one type of bag, it will motivate retail stores to voluntarily make reusable bags available to shoppers. The Citizens for Sustainable Bagging have tried to include citizens and store owners in the process as much as possible. They have issued two surveys: one for stores and one for citizens and both indicated there was large support for the ban. Additionally, they have held open meetings throughout the planning process.

Some people have raised that a ban is too abrupt and that instead recycling should be instituted. According to the EPA, less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled. Even if the bags make it into the recycling bin, there is a huge issue with contaminants that obstructs many bags from being recycled. Even still, recycling still does take energy. Finally, since plastic bags cannot be recycled curbside, if people are willing to bring the bags to recycling bins in stores, they might as well bring reusable bags.

The ban is trying to help people change their habits. Most people agree that plastic bags are harmful, but need the extra mental reminder a ban would provide. The ban will have a six-month grace period that will allow people time to buy reusable bags, which are easily and cheaply available at the supermarket, and use plastic and paper bags until they establish a habit of bringing reusable bags. There are even bags that conveniently fold up and fit in a purse. One tip that helped me make the switch was writing remember bags at the top of my grocery list.

Finally, there is an abundance of false information available about bags. Some sources claim plastic is not as bad as it has been made out to be. After reviewing these sources, I have found them to be biased and false.

Plastic bags have severe, lasting repercussions on marine life. That being said, paper bags are not a good alternative as, although they lack the lasting impacts of plastic, they take more energy to produce. Thus, I favor reusable bags as an alternative.

Lauren Healey