It would be difficult to overstate the impact of plastic pollution on our world.

As the nonprofit group Earth Day Network writes on its website:

“From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.”

When most of us think of plastic pollution, our mind flashes to roadside litter, with used plastic shopping bags caught on fences or in trees, fluttering in the wind. That may be the most visible daily interaction with plastic pollution, but not the only or even most serious problem.

Far more dangerous to the health of the planet is the millions of tons of plastic debris floating around in the world’s oceans.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says this:

“Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. … Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land — either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.”

Officials in Frederick County are aware of the issue, and are starting to discuss ways that local governments and residents might do their part to combat it.

Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen has proposed an outright ban on single-use plastic, and the issue was the subject of a joint meeting this week of council members and the city of Frederick’s Board of Aldermen.

Hagen (D) told the meeting that he plans to create a work group made up of six to 10 people to look at the feasibility of a ban and related issues. He would like to have the group’s recommendations by next winter, he added.

The proposed ban drew some support as well as questions and criticism. We will have lots of questions for the work group as well.

Hagen speaks of banning all single-use plastic. There is an argument to be made concerning plastic shopping bags from stores, but what of other single-use bags, such as trash can liners or kitchen bags? What about food storage bags used in almost every lunchbox?

Some businesses would have a hard time quitting plastic bags altogether, and The News-Post is one of them. We deliver our newspapers in plastic bags because readers want the paper to arrive dry and readable.

Beyond the bag issue, a raft of single-use plastic is used in every medical facility, from Frederick Memorial Hospital to every single doctor’s office. Almost every sterile item is wrapped in plastic, and many of the tools themselves are made of plastic.

The grocery business uses a lot of plastic shopping bags, but many more products in the stores, from the salad bar to the spice rack, are largely sold in plastic. What would be done with them?

These questions just scratch the surface. The Hagen work group will have a tremendous task in figuring out how many facets of daily life will be affected. A winter deadline might not be realistic.

Alderman Roger Wilson, who attended the joint meeting, noted that the city of Baltimore has been attempting for months to introduce a single-use plastic ban, so far without success.

Some jurisdictions have attempted to address the problem by taxing plastic shopping bags, with mixed success. But it might be a place to start.

In the end, the county might discover that a total ban on single-use plastic is a very ambitious goal that may be beyond the capabilities of a city or county. It is a problem worth addressing, but we have our doubts that it can be done soon at the local level.

(10) comments

joelp77440

We need to burn our trash. Recycle what we can, but the most environmentally, carbon footprint reduction way is to burn it. Sounds counter intuitive to what people know but the true is, it makes the most sense from a pragmatic point of view. To illustrate the net gain verse the cost to the environment would take about three articles which I don't want to write. Increase in current emission controls is key at these waste-to-energy plants for this plan to work, If you weigh the impact single use plastic causes our environments, coal and other carbon based fuels due to our air and how landfills seep toxins into our water supply, burning is better. Most will disagree for it takes a pragmatic view which is really on the outs in these modern politically polarized times.

LAR1

Maybe the FNP could stop using plastic bags for delivery newspapers. Instead put the newspapers in the roadside boxes available for them, usually near mail boxes.

StrengthofLiberty

In October of 2018 a study confronting plastics, and how to move them from our landscapes into a healthier component as an economic factor. The language did not demonnize plastics, or seek to ban them. The report has been released this month - and is readily available: 50 brands and retailers are piloting or expanding reuse and refill schemes. The recycled content targets from consumer packaged goods comopanies, retailers, and packaging producers amojnt to a demand of 5.4 million tonnes of recycled plastics by 2025 (with several companies still to set their 2025 targets). Leading businesses and governments will stop using problematic and unecessary plastic packaging including PVC, single-use plastic straws, and carrier bags - many by the end of this year. Consumer goods companies and retailers commit to increasing recycled content in their packaging to an average of 25% by 2025, compared with the current global average of 2.0%. 40 organisations now publicaly report their annual volumes of plastic pacakging production and use, including major consumer packaging goods companies and retailers: Carrefour, Colgate, Palmolive, Danone, L'Oreal, MARS, Nestle, Coca-Cola and Unilever. None of these elected officals need the time frame being set out by Mr. Hagen to do their "homework". No open ended reason to get together for a glass of wheat grass. If this extensive report can be set out within six months, and released to the public in the seventh month - give Mr. Hagen and his chums four months to meet over their farm to tables to have done their research, drafted, finalised and released their "report" - Frankly, the type of information in my comment is the type of information Frederick News Post has a responsiblity to report in their journal i- especially if FNP persists in these types of vaguenesses anonymously written op-eds. This issue is elegant and with very real opportunities for plastics to managed, creativity stimulated, and plastic producted healthily profited from. What Mr. Hagens "Committee to Ban" should in fact be researching and proposing is a robust waste resource processing facility. With the consumptive class population keeps growing and drive thru culture the norm - getting rid of plastic shopping bags, and plastic straws are a no brainer. The plan for waste far more vital. Imagine how 11 billions dollars could impact our local waste resources, and improve, by nurture of our Eden. I can not urge you enough to search "Plastic economy" - you will find the .org you need to get the report. If you think it - as I do - vitally important to the economics of enviromental nurture - read it and share it with others genuinely concerned and not interested in this issue being dealt with in a timely manner.s I Remember the Amazon /for those born after 1980's - the Amazon being referred to is in South America/

gary4books

Liberty - [thumbup][thumbup]

KellyAlzan

If plastic is so bad, then why are we recycling plastic?

gary4books

It all depends where the plastic is. Recycle means not in the tree tops or in our livers.

gabrielshorn2013

A ban on ALL single use plastics is not feasible. Syringes used to administer medications, the ubiquitous 96-well microtiter plates used in biological assays, tissue culture flasks, pipettes, single use fermenters, etc. Are commonly used in biopharmaceutical labs. How could they be banned? Then there are plastic bags used for waste, trashcan liners, etc. Bubblewrap for packaging fragile shipments.? What are the proposed alternatives?

threecents

Yup, they should focus only on shopping bags. That will be challenging enough.

gary4books

I do not know if it should be recycle or a ban. We had a good supply of fabric bags to take to the store, but their new system leaves little room for reusable bags and even slows the workers who are timed on their performance.

threecents

I think it should be a ban on plastic shopping bags, but stores should still be able to sell trash bags and other plastics.

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