NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 5, 2013

Banning single-use plastic bags a good start


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I support a proposed ban on some single-use plastic bags in Newburyport. Some opponents say the ban will reduce consumer choice, make shopping less convenient and cut the supply for recyclers. I certainly don’t believe regulating plastic bag use will solve all of our problems with plastic in the environment nor will this measure alone clean up our neighborhoods, our landscapes or our waterways. However, a ban could be one important part of the solution resulting in less litter, less trash in our landfills and reduced use of oil. I support a ban like this because it could mean less plastic will end up in our environment; wherever you stand on the issue, that should be an important fact to consider. Banning single-use plastic bags in Newburyport would be a good start — especially if you don’t like the idea of eating plastic.

Plastic, whether in the form of bottles, bags or anything else, does eventually break into smaller and smaller parts, but it essentially remains the same combination of chemicals it started as. Given long enough, it becomes tiny particles. In parts of the ocean, research has documented up to six times more bits of plastic by weight than plankton. Plankton are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish, which perhaps end up on your dinner plate. Plastic in all shapes and sizes is also now found in the bodies of most marine organisms where it can cause injury, malnutrition and death. All of these facts should bother us because we live on the edge of a rich marine environment and its health impacts us all.

I don’t claim to never use plastic bags myself. If you’re like me, you may save your plastic bags to re-use or recycle. This ban wouldn’t eliminate plastic bags altogether, but it would help to decrease the sheer number of bags and help reduce how many end up in our landfills, our waterways or the branches of our trees and bushes. It’s nearly impossible to control how we as individuals choose to use or dispose of plastic bags, but it is possible to discourage us from accumulating them in the first place. It’s important to remember “reduce, reuse, recycle” is a three-legged stool. One without the others will lead to failure.

Some countries have already banned plastic bags and bags are taxed or customers must pay for them in other countries. A number of cities around the U.S. have sort of ban on single-use bags. In Massachusetts, there are bans in Nantucket, Brookline, Great Barrington and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

I’m not saying this won’t take some sacrifice from us all, myself included. However, if this means I can tell my children that we are doing what we can to protect their futures, one less plastic bag in my shopping cart seems a small price to pay. We accepted single-use bags easily when they came into our lives, and we should accept their leaving quickly and easily now that they’re a problem.

Juliet Walker

Newburyport