Council has better things to legislate than plastic bags | Letters | Jan. 12
January 12, 2012 · Updated 4:00 PM
I am uncomfortable with the idea of outlawing the use of plastic bags on Bainbridge Island that was recently presented by Council Member Kirsten Hytopoulos. Yes, I carry a nylon shopping bag in my purse for carrying small purchases, so please, hear me out.
First, a reminder that the citizens of King County voted against a ban on plastic bags several years ago. The most recent ban in King County, which our Hytopoulos has referenced, was put in place by a council action, not by the wishes of the public.
Perhaps, in the interest of fairness, this is a matter that should be put to a popular vote on our island, rather than being imposed from on high.
Secondly, there are ample opportunities to recycle unused plastic bags here on the island, and I personally find many of these containers full to overflowing. I thus assume that plastic bags that are unused here do, in fact, get properly recycled. In addition, some people provide their own bags when shopping and some choose paper. Freedom of choice is the issue here.
Third, it rains here. Most paper bags do poorly in the rain. Numerous kinds of items need to be protected from the rain.
Fourth, paper bags are not as strong as plastic bags, and thus cannot always make it home with their contents.
Fifth, an extremely high percentage of island residents own dogs, and most of them pick up the waste from said dogs using plastic bags (as mandated by local law), thus keeping our public spaces clean. If you outlaw bags from retail stores, these owners will just have to go and purchase them for their cleanup chore, and you will not solve anything.
In my small household, the only plastic bags that actually get recycled are those with holes in them that cannot be used for animal waste or human garbage. I believe that we will all agree that paper is unsuitable for handling such waste.
Finally, plastic bags are not unique to island businesses. Online purchases are often shipped in heavy plastic bags to save the weight of boxes; items come cushioned with plastic bags filled with air; and most clothing items arrive in plastic bags.
The idea that grocery retailers (but not, mysteriously, the other downtown vendors) are somehow responsible for waste bags found in the environment is ill-conceived. No matter how well-meaning, a government will never be able to legislate “manners” or “environmental stewardship.” Some people recycle, some do not. Some pollute the land and the sea, some do not.
It seems far more important for our city government to repair our failing sewer pipes that will surely again pollute Puget Sound with untreated sewage when they fail, or to repair our roads. Also, better to manage the runoff that has been proven to be a detriment to water quality.
I am opposed to a council imposed ban on plastic bags on Bainbridge Island, and I hope that the citizens here will have the freedom to choose how to carry their goods (the purchase of which is taxed by the city and thus, benefits the city) away from a retail location.
I believe there are far more serious issues that require the attention of our council.
Dee DuMont, Winslow