I do question the claim that regulating free plastic bags will limit people’s freedom. There are freedoms that we give up to live in society, but the word “freedom” doesn’t strike me as appropriate here. And indeed we do end up paying for plastic bags in our grocery bills. You don’t have to look far to find a littered plastic bag in your neighborhood to show that the environmental cost is real too.
The North Pacific garbage gyre is not a myth. Research into plastic in the gyre appears in peer-reviewed scientific publications such as the Marine Pollution Bulletin and Marine Ecology. Plastic travels the same path as many of Earth’s terrestrial nutrients and pollutants reaching its oceanic destination. Along the way, large land and marine animals suffer entanglement that can lead to suffocation or strangulation. Ingestion can cause starvation whereby the stomach fills with non-nutritive plastic and is not able to properly empty non-food items. Furthermore, toxins adhere to plastic creating an additional ingestion hazard.
Less-visible effects occur because plastic photo-degrades (instead of biodegrading) into smaller and smaller pieces. These small pieces then reside in the same space as marine microorganisms (think plankton) and again are unavoidably ingested by higher organisms that consume the plankton and on it goes up the food chain.
Durango is my former home and a place I love to visit. I hope it perseveres in this and other efforts to keep our Earth home clean.