In advance of Earth Day 2016 (April 22), earth advocates all over NY State are attempting to find ways to curb the use of plastic bags in their communities. In recent years, cities such as Washington DC and Portland Oregon have seen measures imposed that help to alleviate/stop the controversial source of pollution. Washington imposed a 5¢ fee on bags, where Portland outlawed them altogether.
The thing that kills me about the plastic bags is the sheer number of plastic bags that I see people using at local stores and at supermarkets. I see cashiers bag a single bottle of soda/pop. I see a candy bar dropped into a plastic bag. Then there’s the double bagging that occurs. It seems as if anything around the size of a carton of orange juice gets double bagged. By the time a grocery cart leaves the supermarket, more often than not it looks like it’s overflowing with plastic bags, which mostly end up in the landfill, although plastic bag advocates claim that a high percent are recycled (dropped off at supermarkets) or reused.
Opponents to curbing/banning the use of plastic bags say that it is not fair to those who cannot afford canvas bags. Personally, I’ve used the same canvas bags for years. I am sure that those who use plastic bags as a convenience rather than a necessity don’t consider trying to use them again. That’s because they’re free! Why go through the hassle of reusing something, or stocking your car with personal bags, when there is no incentive to do so? We live in a throwaway society that makes it way too easy to simply gather and dispose at our convenience.
Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s over one million plastic bags used per minute.
When you stop to think of all of the people, and all of the bags, that get handed out on a daily basis, it’s mind blowing.
Currently Boston is considering charging 10¢ per plastic bag, in order to get people to switch over to reusable bags. Californians will soon be voting whether a state-wide ban will go into effect. NY City is also looking at charging 5¢ for plastic bags. Per usual, there are plenty of opponents fighting the ban/charge.
Erie County is now poised to become ultra progressive in the ways that it deals with plastic bags. First, Erie County led (and the State followed) on the smoking ban and the microbeads ban, which means that a ban on plastic bags in not so far-fetched. A plastic bag ban in Erie County would set an environmental precedent for other communities to do the same. Currently County Executive Mark Poloncarz is leading the way for Erie County. He is proposing a ban on plastic bags, which would mean that Buffalo would be the first upstate NY community to go in that direction. In order to get the ball rolling, Poloncarz is asking the Legislature to conduct an environmental impact review, regarding a possible ban (which he is pushing for), or a fee (which would be seen as an unfair tax to those struggling to make ends meet).
The conversation has begun. In the future, Buffalo will hopefully be a city that does away with plastic bags altogether. Otherwise, there would at least be a charge for using plastic and paper, in order to get shoppers to adjust their collective mindset that there is no such thing as a free bag. In the end, the markets have to pay for them, which ends up being tacked on to the cost of products. The earth also pays a price, which many of us know, but tend to ignore.