Remember the good old days when supermarket cashiers used to ask whether we wanted paper or plastic bags? I always preferred paper, for whatever reason. If memory serves, I think it was because the paper bag was sturdier and better insulated for transporting home our frozen goods. Eventually, I guess “the man” decided paper would no longer be an option. I think it was due to us “killing too many trees” or something. I learned to accept plastic as my only choice, even pondering that if paper bags ever made a comeback I’d probably not switch back, but now there’s a full-fledged assault on not only plastic bags but all plastics in general. The man is at it again, and I’m not too happy.
California, New York, and Hawaii have already banned single-use plastic bags, and New Jersey and Maine are proposing to follow suit. California has also placed limits on the use of plastic straws, and Oregon is now following The Golden State’s lead. Oregon is also considering ridding the state of those evil plastic bags along with banning Styrofoam takeout containers. I can’t help but find it more than just a bit ironic, and even a tad disturbingly humorous, that those most vocal about banning plastics tend to be the same ones demanding options regarding abortion. They’re more concerned with our ocean and beaches than that of the unborn child. Please don’t get me wrong; I’m almost as environmentally friendly as the next guy.
When my lovely wife and I moved to Peoria, Arizona a dozen years ago, there was no recycling pickup program in place. The missus immediately contacted our city government inquiring as to what to do with our recyclables and suggesting Peoria should implement a recycling collection program. Week after week we inconveniently loaded up our car with our recyclables, hauling them to a drop-off site, until the city finally enacted a comprehensive recycling program a few years later. My wife even took charge of recycling at her place of employment after learning everything discarded there was treated as trash. She’s endearingly known as the recycling Nazi at the salon. And I recently informed the city when I noticed a neighbor had moved out and had incorrectly placed several bags of trash into his recycling receptacle. (We’ve been told, and then confirmed by a city official, that one piece of trash mixed in with recyclables contaminates the entire load.)
The point is this: I care about our planet, and I’m trying to do my best, but I think plastics are getting a bad rap. It’s not just parts of the United States opposed to plastics though. The European Union has joined the war on plastics, and as was reported in The New York Times (6/11/19) Canada is shunning the plastics industry and their supporters as well. Canadian retailers are allowed to charge customers, those opting not to bring in reusable bags, a fee for plastic bags and shaming them in the process. In central Vancouver, people who choose to purchase a plastic bag will receive it, but the bag will be decorated with a (presumably fictional) business name or logo intended to evoke embarrassment. A phrase such as “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium” or “The Colon Care Co-Op” will adorn the sides of the taboo bag as it leaves the establishment with the “conscientiously lacking” patron.
I can appreciate states, countries, and even businesses desiring to lead the way in sustaining our planet, but many of them are less than disingenuous I’m afraid. I suspect it’s more about politics and profits than anything else. Regardless, they’re all misguided by focusing on the wrong thing. I think the results of actual litter collected during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup in 2017, paints a truer picture. The agency’s reported statistics listed in The Wall Street Journal (5/21/19) found cigarette butts to be the main culprit out at sea and washing up on our beaches. Next was food wrappers and then thirdly numerous plastics followed by foam takeout containers. By the way, plastic straws only account for approximately 0.025% of the annual waste flowing into the ocean (The Wall Street Journal 5/28/19).
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said, “As parents we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about” (The New York Times 6/11/19). I sincerely agree with Trudeau’s words, but scapegoating the plastics industry is not the answer. The solution is conquering the obvious global littering epidemic. Instead of banning plastic products, maybe the answer is to have much harsher penalties for litterers. The death penalty may be a bit too severe, but I’d certainly lobby for an enormous fine and mandatory jail time – even for first time offenders.
Really, how difficult is it not to litter? I don’t think I’ve ever done that my entire life. The missus and I faithfully return our used plastic bags to the grocery store each week. We responsible plastic bag users should not be the ones being spurned in society – it should be the litterbugs of the world. I proudly surmise Peoria has figured that out since my city has just implemented a new program to curb littering. Residents are encouraged to file a “litter report” with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) when they spy a litterbug in action. The witness must present the offender’s license plate number to the transportation agency and they’ll do the rest. ADOT will send the vehicle’s owner a letter informing the person that someone caught them in the act, along with a small trash bag to keep in their car. Ouch! Now that’s justified shaming. So, paper or plastic? Plastic, please.