An explanation of why using fewer plastic bags matter, to us and to the planet.
In 10 days, on Wednesday, April 15, grocery stores in Portland will begin charging a nickel for every bag (plastic and paper) that they use to package your groceries. Our dot represents connecting the dots, reminding you why – beyond those nickels – this policy matters. Our quick recap is in part courtesy of Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Ready?
Many resources (energy, raw materials, fossil fuels) are used to create and transport grocery bags, whether paper or plastic, and most of us use the bags just once – or maybe twice – before throwing them out. That adds up to A LOT of trash.
“This is a really easy change of behavior that can reduce waste in a really significant way,” Didisheim said.
Yes, it takes resources to create reusable bags, but you reuse them (obviously).
Plastic bags cannot be recycled in most city recycling programs; they clog the machinery at single-sort recycling centers, such as Portland has. Paper bags can be recycled, but in the environmental hierarchy, reuse trumps recycling. In Portland, we incinerate the plastic bags.
Plastic bags often blow into the ocean. Eventually, scientists say, the bags break up into little toxic pieces that threaten the fish that eat them and the shellfish that sift water continuously and possibly us. Intact bags can damage the intestinal tracks of or choke sea mammals and (already at risk) sea turtles.
One last thing, a metaphor: As a society, when we casually, continually and heedlessly throw stuff away, it’s hard (at least for this former English major) to avoid thinking we’ll likewise find it too easy to throw away love, people, small developing nations …
— PEGGY GRODINSKY