Opinion

Plastic bag ban is needed | IN OUR OPINION

Papa, get a brand new bag. A reusable one. Bainbridge has spoken, and it’s time to ban disposable plastic bags.

Banning disposable plastic bags makes sense, well beyond the widespread public support for the idea.

Researchers have well-documented the harmful impact to Puget Sound wildlife caused by one-use plastic bags. Supporters of the ban — which doesn’t cover all disposable plastic bags, only some — have pointed to the case of the gray whale that washed ashore in West Seattle two years ago; 20 plastic bags were found in the majestic marine mammal’s stomach.

Even more disturbing, researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma have discovered small pieces of plastic in every water sample that they’ve taken from Puget Sound in the last year and a half. Plastic never biodegrades; instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that seep into soil and water.

Supporters of the bag ban have noted that more than 8 million plastic bags are used on Bainbridge Island each year.

Recycling the bags hasn’t helped much in the U.S., however. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that just 4.3 percent of the bags end up in the recycling stream.

It should be noted that the proposed ban will not eliminate the use of all plastic bags. Bags used by customers for produce, meat, bakery and bulk items in grocery stores, and those used for small hardware items or greeting cards, are not included in the ban. Nor are newspaper bags, dry-cleaning bags, or those used for garbage and waste included in the prohibition.

Still, the proposed regulations are a good start to ridding a ubiquitous environmental menace. Four other cities — Seattle, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Bellingham — have already banned plastic bags. The Bainbridge ban has the solid support of citizens and businesses across the island, and the city council should be lauded in its efforts to join with other leaders who have taken such strong steps to protect our environment.

 

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