, Newburyport, MA

April 3, 2014

Answers to questions on plastic bag ban

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I am responding to Lyndi Lanphear’s letter on the topic of the proposed ban on plastic grocery bags. She asks some good questions and as a representative of the group that proposed the ban, I would like to answer.

She asked who would enforce the ban on bags, and whether this would create an added city expense. The current staff of the Recycling, Energy and Sustainability Department will enforce the ban in the same way that they enforce recycling. Unlike a fee, a ban requires very little administration. Only a few stores currently use this particular type of bag.

As to the experience of Brookline and Manchester, two nearby communities that have banned the grocery bag, both have had very positive experiences with it. Newton, Cambridge and Marblehead are currently considering passing a ban. In California, more residents are covered under a grocery store bag ban than the entire population of Massachusetts, and there are no efforts to change the policy. Hawaii has implemented the first state-wide ban.

Ms. Lanphear also mentions that some people might switch to paper when the plastic grocery bag is banned. This is possible, but the consequences are not as severe as staying with plastic. Paper bags are made from a renewable resource, wood, and 65 percent of their content is already recycled. They decompose rapidly and are not an environmental problem. However, we hope that people will choose to use reusable cloth bags for groceries. The Institution for Savings has already donated 400 such bags for residents, and the Chamber of Commerce is considering a Newburyport bag that will be available at low cost. As Ms. Lanphear notes, canvas bags are preferable to plastic and paper bags. Yes, they need to be washed, like any other cloth item. I have bags that are 30 years old and still going strong!

Environmentalists tell us to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, in that order. Plastic grocery bags are a perfect example. Many of us recycle them, though many do not. Some of us reuse them for dog waste or the like. We all need to reduce their use to create a cleaner earth. A ban is the best way to encourage us all to find alternatives to the environmentally unsustainable plastic grocery bag.

Martha McManamy

for Citizens for Sustainable Bagging