To the editor:
I am writing today about a piece of legislation that is being widely debated in the state Legislature right now. There is talk of a ban on single use plastic bags in Massachusetts. This legislation would regulate carry-out bags in most retail and grocery store locations. The bill (H 696, H 787, and S 359) outlines certain types of bags that cannot be used by any retail establishment and the bags that the bill will not regulate which are recyclable and reusable bags. According to the proposed bill, if passed “no retail establishment located in the Commonwealth ... may distribute plastic carry-out bags,” and “this prohibition applies to bags provided for the purpose of carrying away goods from the point of sale.” If it were to pass, Massachusetts would be the first state in the United States to pass statewide plastic bag legislation and it would go into effect in April 2015. This ban has been introduced as “part of an effort to prevent litter from harming marine animals and to reduce waste scattered through streets and stuck in tree branches.”
I think this is a fantastic piece of legislation and I am writing to urge people to get involved in the debate on the plastic bag ban. If the ban were to be passed, it would help the environment quite a bit. The average American family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store. Some 12 million barrels of oil are needed to create 100 billion bags. The oil used to make plastic bags in America is greater than the entire oil demand of countries such as Iceland and North Korea.
If we reduced our plastic bag use, we would be helping the environment by reducing the use of oil and the pollution from the bags themselves. The bags are a danger to the state’s coastlines; they kill sea turtles, whales, seals, and other marine wildlife that mistake the bags for food and swallow the plastic or become fatally entangled and strangled by the bags. The sea turtle’s natural prey is jellyfish, and when a plastic bag is floating in the water it looks just like a jellyfish. If the turtle ingests a plastic bag they can have serious complications with their bodily functions and eventually die from the bag choking them or their intestinal system. Fewer plastic bags would mean less litter into the ocean and fewer marine animals would be harmed.
It would also help clean up our beaches, which would benefit anyone who enjoys going to the coast in the summer. Also a single plastic bag can take 20 to 1,000 years to degrade. While the bags do degrade they are releasing toxic chemicals into the environment which can be harmful to both the environment and humans. By eliminating plastic bags we are helping to reduce toxins that enter the environment.
This is a very important issue in the state right now that will affect everyone. When you go to the store, the plastic bags will be gone and replaced by more environmentally sound paper bags, or you will be encouraged to use reusable bags. It will be very different from the way it is now, but it will greatly help the environment and the appearance of our state.