A Question about the Ban the Bag Petition
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Question from a reader:
Having a knowledge of the problems of plastic in the oceans and having seen black plastic bags wafting through remote areas of the Gobi and Sahara deserts, I agree that they pose a significant problem.
However, what is the alternative? I think it unreasonable (and beyond the scope of government) to require people to use re-usable shopping bags. So too, I am concerned about the deforestation caused by using paper shopping bags, despite laws requiring replanting ( a law which, in many countries, is more honored in its breach than its observance.) It is one thing to ban the use of plastic bags, but what are your suggestions/solutions for an acceptable alternative?
Answer from MUG:
We agree government shouldn't require people to use reusable shopping bags. There are many reasons, though, for government to educate about the environmental cost of one-use plastic bags and discourage wastefulness.
Paper bags are not a perfect solution. As you rightly point out, there are certainly environmental issues with paper. However, plastic bags, when they are recycled at all, can be downcycled one time only. The ones that aren't recycled are too often blown into rivers and then carried to the oceans or blown directly into the ocean. Paper can be recycled over and over. Reusable bags reduce the amount of plastic in the waste stream, and government can surely encourage that.
Let's not forget, plastic shopping bags haven't been with us forever. It was only in the 1980s that grocery stores switched to plastic bags across the country. Prior to that, we did manage without them. But plastic shopping bags stay with us almost forever—an item that provides us with a few hours of practical use takes about five centuries to degrade. And if we still use them, shouldn't we use fewer than 700 a year, which is the average per American?
Plastic is going to be with us. But if NYC by bans (or surcharges) plastic bags, it would make a huge symbolic, as well as a modest substantive, impact. Bans or restrictions of one form or another are already happening across the country. In essence, these bans say that we take the impact we're having on the environment seriously. We hope you'll consider adding your voice by signing the petition.
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