NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 16, 2013

Breaking the plastic bag habit

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority must be relieved. Suddenly, it seems everyone has stopped talking about the NRA’s controversial waterfront plans, and instead the talk has turned to something that’s really blowing in the wind.

Plastic bags.

A local group called Citizens for Sustainable Bagging is proposing that Newburyport either ban plastic bags or require people pay a fee for them. At this point it’s just a proposal without any local government support, but it has quickly become the talk of the town.

It has its supporters and its detractors, both of which can point to various statistics and examples to make valid points.

We’re not in favor of punishing consumers or local businesses by banning plastic bags and forcing them to find alternatives. Some of the “green” alternatives are actually worse than plastic bags. We’d prefer to see people take their own initiative, with a little help and encouragement, to wean themselves off plastic bags.

There’s no doubt about it — plastic bags are very convenient, lightweight and handy. But they are also incredibly wasteful, requiring massive amounts of energy to produce. It’s estimated a half trillion plastic bags are produced worldwide, each year. As we continue on our habit of consuming oil and natural resources at a rapid pace, it makes sense to get smart about reducing waste.

There are plenty of statistics on plastic bags out there. Here’s some that we found interesting:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported it takes about the same amount of energy to produce 13 plastic bags as it does to move a car 1 mile.

The same bureau reports paper bags are far worse than plastic bags, in terms of the amount of energy and natural resources required to make them. The carbon footprint of paper bags is 70 percent greater than plastic bags. Paper bags are a bad alternative to plastic.

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