To the editor:
In Massachusetts 95 percent of lightweight, two-handled plastic bags given out at the checkout end up in landfills and as litter on our land and in our water, harming our environment and wildlife.
In response to these issues, Citizens for Sustainable Bagging is promoting a local ordinance to ban the use of single-use shopping bags in Newburyport.
Since the winter we have conducted two surveys to gauge public opinion about this initiative.
First, CSB surveyed all the downtown merchants and major retailers in the city in order to understand how such a ban on single-use bags would affect local businesses.
We received responses from 104 businesses and found the following:
Only 25 percent of the businesses that responded currently offer only plastic bags to their customers (that is, they don’t provide an alternative such as paper bags), and 50 percent of those businesses would be willing to switch to another type of bag.
Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of the merchants who responded to our survey favor some change in their approach to plastic bag use.
Since completing that survey, we have held positive discussions with several major retailers in Newburyport. We look forward to continued good collaboration to reduce plastic grocery bag use.
More recently, we surveyed Newburyport residents to learn what individuals in the city think of plastic grocery bags.
This survey was administered online, in person and via mailings.
It was sent out to all households, so that all residents had the opportunity to provide their input.
We received over 400 responses to this survey, and the results were as follows:
Nine out of 10 respondents already bring their own bags to grocery stores at least some of the time, and more than half bring them to other kinds of stores.
When people surveyed do not bring their own bags with them, the biggest reason by far is that they forget or do not have time to do so. Nine percent of respondents said they do not have reusable bags, and only 5 percent said they do not think it is important to do so.
Three-quarters of respondents (75 percent) said they would support a city ordinance banning single-use plastic grocery bags.
Slightly more than half (52 percent) would support a small charge to discourage the use of these bags. (Some of these individuals also supported the idea of a ban.)
Twelve percent are opposed to either a ban or a fee. We also included an open-ended opportunity for people to describe why they support or oppose a local ordinance, which gave us more insight into local opinion.
The results of these two surveys show strong support for a legislative initiative to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags in Newburyport.
We can accomplish a lot by thinking about and changing our habits in an area that seems to be of minor importance, but makes a big difference.
All together, we can save a lot of plastic!
For the Citizens for Sustainable Bagging Committee:
Janine Brunell Looker, John Halloran, Martha McManamy and Sheila Taintor;
student members: Lindsay Ford, Henry Jacqz, Sarah Jacqz, Phoebe Lanham and Cyrus Woodman