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Editorials

The Ordinance Is In The Bag

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After much debate, Newtown will soon implement the single use plastic bag ban plus fee for paper, a stricter law than the recently passed state budget tax of 10-cents per single use plastic bag, beginning in August, which will be followed by a complete statewide ban of the environmentally insensitive sacks in 2021.

A huge supporter turnout for Newtown’s plastic bag reduction proposal at the June 5 Legislative Council ordinance committee meeting overwhelmed the few opponents at that public hearing. It was the 10-cent charge for paper bags that seemed most objectionable to those speaking against it.

The cost, financially and environmentally, of producing and shipping paper bags cannot be denied. But many have long reused these bags for myriad tasks about the house, as they have the to-be-banned plastic bags, according to some opponents of the fee, and a reason to defeat that portion of the proposal.

By banning one and placing a fee on the other widely used carry-out bag, though, bag ban supporters believe it is possible to encourage residents to shop with only reusable bags — a practice pointed out by advocates as being readily accepted in Europe.

(How environmentally sound reusables are is another bag of worms, with cotton bags actually more of a negative environmental impact than plastic over the long-term, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food; polypropylene reusable bags may be the best alternative to protect the environment.)

While ultimately the real problem is overuse of plastics in general — according to World Resources Institute, a highly rated nonprofit devoted to “move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment…,” nearly a quarter of plastics are contaminated and cannot be reused, and only about nine percent of plastics are currently recycled — Newtown’s new law contributes to a healthier world.

Plastic bags pollute land and water and endanger wildlife and ocean inhabitants that mistakenly ingest discarded bags. They blow across beaches and landscapes, and dangle from branches. Fewer plastic bags can only be beneficial to the environment. But education about and accessibility to alternatives without adding further costs for residents or inadvertently adding to global pollution would be a preferable route to changing our culture. Through information disseminated throughout not just Newtown, but cities nationwide, wise decisions that are in the long run more cost effective and environmentally friendly could become the change we want to see.

Our city and other cities in the state are jumping into the fray of the plastic bag ban, which hopefully will not remain a divisive issue. Our town and state are taking baby steps toward change. As we know, one must crawl before one walks, walk before one runs; let’s use this new law to grow more awareness, for the sake of future generations.

Locally, through the generosity of Church Hill Village, reusable bags have been made available for free at locations around town. Every small effort is a step toward greater change to keep Newtown — and America — beautiful.

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