To the editor:
In 2003, in the small New Hampshire town I called home before moving to Newburyport, the public outcry over a proposed ban on smoking in restaurants and bars was palpable. Then lo and behold, by 2007, all N.H. restaurants and bars operated 100 percent smoke-free. Today, smokers and non-smokers alike understand and accept that decision and go about their lives. Public benefit won out over personal interests. The time has come for us to recognize that our habit of accepting single-use plastic bags at store checkout should wisely come to an end.
The documentary “Bag It,” which was aired for our community on May 22, opened my eyes to the detriments of these seemingly inconsequential conveniences. No one I know intends to contribute to a massive environmental assault on wildlife and marine life by mindlessly accepting these plastic bags at checkout, and yet, that is what we are doing. The Sierra Club estimates that every year the number of littered plastic bags, if tied end to end, could encircle our beautiful planet not just once, but 63 times. Annually, as a nation, we throw away some 100 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) plastic bags after we’ve used them for an average of 20 minutes. That’s the equivalent of dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.
The beauty and pristine quality of this spectacular seaside community drew me to Newburyport, and I will do my part to keep it this way for generations to come. Other coastal communities, such as Nantucket and Manchester-by-the-Sea locally, as well as coastal North Carolina, San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands, have realized the gift we have of living on the ocean and have banned single-use plastic bags as a step toward preserving the environment. In Portland, Ore., the sky didn’t fall when they passed the ban in 2011. In one year, their city saw a 300 percent increase in reusable bag use.
We can do it. We can decide that it’s time to break what we now know is a bad habit. Support the local proposed bag ordinance to eliminate thin-film, single-use plastic bags from Newburyport stores. Let’s join the other Mass. towns in carrying our own reusable bags and start a new habit that will benefit us for generations to come.
Rebecca B. Osborne