Plastic Bags Must Go!
In 1977, the first plastic grocery bags started to make an appearance in stores. Today, what was once a novelty is such an integral part of our lives that we barely notice them. That seemingly insignificant piece of plastic that we may not give much thought to is, however, causing immense damage to our planet.
Forty one years later, we now know the plastic bag, like all plastic, doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades. That means, instead of breaking down, it only breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. All plastic cause terrible harm in the environment, but plastic bags are particularly insidious because they are so light. They get caught in the wind and fly away from all sorts of places. They even fly right off the top of garbage piles in landfills. Once they fly away, they get caught on trees and bushes, fences and unfortunately end up in our waterways. All too often, they find their way into the ocean, and that is where they cause the most damage.
Plastic View from the Sea
To sea creatures, plastic bags floating in the ocean look just like jellyfish. When eaten, animals are unable to pass the plastic, and they starve from an artificially full stomach.
Plastic is killing thousands of sea animals every year, yet our plastic consumption keeps growing. It has been estimated that at our current rate of consumption, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. That is a thought that keeps me up at night. How will our children cope with the future environmental problems we leave as our legacy to them?
Ban and Charge for Bags
The obvious answer for me is to ban plastic bags and charge for paper bags. Paper bags do heavy damage to the environment in their own way due to manufacturing and transportation processes. Paying for bags can create an economic disadvantage for lower income residents, but distributing inexpensive or free reusable bags would solve both the affordability issue and the issue of pollution from paper bag manufacture.
Plastic bag bans have already passed in two towns in Connecticut and there are at least a dozen other towns currently working on a ban. Unfortunately, a state ban in Connecticut has failed numerous times. It is time we take this matter into our own hands.
If you and a few other people in your town care about reducing plastic pollution, you can pursue a plastic bag ban in your town too. I am not going to pretend that it’s easy, because it most certainly is not. But as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy. There are wonderful people who have walked this path ahead of us, who are ready and willing to help us on our own journey. We can band together, support each other and make plastic bag bans pop up all over our beautiful state. Just think of what a nice dent that would make in a very serious problem! I have four kids, and I know that they deserve a much better world than the one that we are leaving them. We can all play a part in leaving a more decent world behind for all of our children.
Vanessa Villamil is an activist, including her membership in CT Chapter Sierra Club’s Political Committee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.