Bag fee will help reduce plastic pollution

Local residents consume at least 7 million disposable plastic bags each year. Manufacturing this amount of plastic requires approximately 100,000 gallons of petroleum. Using something resource-intensive for about an hour, then disposing it in a landfill is a failure of environmental stewardship.

Problems with recycling plastic checkout bags so outweigh their value that most recycling facilities will not take them, including ours. Fewer than 5 percent of bags are recycled, contributing to the problem of buildup of plastic in our environment.

Paper bags require 40 percent more energy to produce than plastic bags – not a solution. Grocers tried rewarding customers 5 cents per bag for bringing their own, but that has not reduced the problem. Annual cost to U.S. retailers for giving away “free” bags is $4 billion. We all pay for this “convenience” with both higher prices on goods up front and later addressing the damage plastic causes to the environment.

Almost 100 cities across America have a ban or a fee on disposable checkout bags. Cities agreeing to a bag fee have shown reduced consumption by 75 to 90 percent. In November 2011, several hundred local residents petitioned the City Council to ban disposable plastic checkout bags altogether. The City Council listened diligently to the opinion of all comers in our community, across our county, at numerous clearly publicized meetings and considered proof of pollution reduction happening in participating cities before enacting a bag fee. I hope the ordinance’s opponents will join in a common responsibility to be better stewards of our environment. Unlike a tax that is unavoidable, this is an avoidable fee, avoided by taking your own bags shopping.

The average reusable bag has a life span of more than 700 disposable plastic bags. Residents have been shopping with them for years. Please support this idea because it is a starting point for reducing plastic buildup in our environment, promotes the use of reusable bags, protects wildlife from plastic pollution in our region, reduces consumption of fossil fuels and saves money for businesses and customers.

Darren White

Bayfield

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