Plastics are very important to just about every aspect of our lives: Their great versatility and variety has them in our clothes, our cars, our houses.
But plastics can also be horribly misused. Because they are cheap, manufacturers use them to make throwaway items such as grocery bags and drink cups. The paper products that plastics have replaced, while still a litter problem, eventually rot and disappear from the landscape. But plastics are forever — they might break down into smaller pieces, but they remain in the environment, killing wildlife that inadvertently eat them.
Frederick County Council member Kai Hagen’s plan to ban plastic bags is certainly worth considering. Also worth considering would be an effort to get businesses to not give them away so freely. Cashiers could be trained to use bags sparingly, perhaps instructed to not automatically put everything in a bag. Items with handles, such as gallon milk jugs, do not need a bag — much less a double bag, as often happens. Maybe cashiers could get a small bonus if they stay under a daily limit of bag use.
The problem with throwaway plastics is that they have no apparent value and people, well, throw them away. However, the “away” they get thrown in is our streets, our yards, our rivers — our natural environment.
If 10 cents were charged for each plastic bag, people would not use them so freely and would have a greater incentive to bring their own bags. Part of the 10-cent charge could be used to give to people who bring old bags back to the store for recycling.
These are just a couple of ideas that the working group could consider. A complete ban on plastic bags can always be held in reserve if nothing else works to diminish their use.