To the editor:
I would like to applaud our town council for proposing the plastic bag ban, for allowing and encouraging discussion through open forum and a town workshop, and ultimately passing the ordinance prohibiting the use of plastic check-out bags.
Many people have asked the question whether this is an example of goverment overstepping their role. Well, when you look at the processes in place that encourage us to consume as part of our economic wellbeing but are for the most part left out of the discussion of the end process of disposal, the burdens of responsibility are not evenly distributed.
The fact is that once we take our trash barrels to the curb, our job (and responsibilities) effectively end — it’s now a government problem.
Our government, unfairly or not, is responsible for managing the end of our consumer cycle and with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind position that we citizens/consumers are relegated to, our system does not lend itself to responsible behavior by its citizens.
As for government making difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions — it’s part of their job, like it or not.
When responsible government identifies a problem and acts to resolve, we need to embrace their efforts. Change is never easy — but sometimes necessary. The detrimental affects of plastic bags on our environment is documented and clear.
The conversation needs to be elevated from “what are we going to replace plastic bags with?” to “how are we going to change our behavior to be better stewards for the environment?”
Our plastic checkout bags for the most part support the idea that a disposable economy is OK — that the more we buy, the better it will be for our economy — possibly true but with consequences. Our U.S. population with 5 percent of the world population produces 25 percent of the world’s waste.
We produce more trash (50 percent more) on average than our comparable counterparts in UK, Germany, Japan, Denmark and other countries with similar standards of living. And our solution? Bury it and it will go away?
It’s pretty clear that this current way of doing things is unsustainable on many levels. Accepting the fact that the average American goes through 500 plastic bags a year and that our current recycling efforts recoup about 11 percent of those should tell us something about the way we as citizens view our waste and our responsibility toward managing it.
With our landfill due to expire in the next 20-some years and with RIRRC currently working on plans for the next 20 years, it would be nice to send the message that Rhode Islander’s are OK with difficult short-term changes that net positive and responsible long-term results.
Thanks again to the council and members of the community for recognizing a problem and acting upon it. This is the type of leadership we need to move our communities, towns and state in the right direction.