Post Independent opinion: To GS council: Think again about single-use bags |

Post Independent opinion: To GS council: Think again about single-use bags

Almost no one, at least in public pronouncements or remarks at government meetings, argues that single-use bags from a checkout counter are a good idea, environmentally speaking.

The ubiquitous plastic sacks – we go through more than 100 billion per year in the U.S. alone – are a drain on the national economy and on our limited reserves of oil.

It takes 12 million barrels of oil to make this nation’s stock of plastic bags, according to a report from the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE). That’s nearly $1 billion at today’s oil prices.

And the less commonly used paper bags represent an unconscionable 14 million trees sacrificed every year for convenience’s sake, not to mention the costly industrial process of making them, getting them to the stores that hand them out, and dealing with them as garbage.

These single-use bags clog our landfills, and in the case of plastic, have ended up washing into the Pacific Ocean in sufficient quantities to contribute greatly to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said to be 3 million tons by volume and twice the size of Texas.

This is a global problem, requiring a massive campaign to reverse this trend before the Hawaiian Islands are annexed by the growing Pacific dump.

It’s also a local problem, because we are part of the world here, much as we may sometimes not want to admit it.

But disappointingly, the Glenwood Springs City Council last week decided against being part of an effort by valley communities to cut down or eliminate the use of such bags and to encourage the community to adopt reusable cloth bags instead.

We call on the council to reconsider that decision, and soon.

CORE estimates that Americans use 400 bags per person, per year, as an average. Counting just this city’s 9,000 people, that comes to 3.6 million bags headed for our landfill each year.

Less than 5 percent of these bags are recycled, and while it is true that many end up as trash-can liners or otherwise are re-used in the home, they all end up in the trash ultimately.

The entire nation of Ireland, in 2002, initiated a levy on plastic shopping bags, the equivalent of 15 cents per bag. The result was a 90 percent reduction in the amount of plastic bags in circulation, dropping from 328 bags per person per year to roughly 21 bags per person per year.

Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale are working on a fee of 10 cents to 20 cents per bag, hoping to have a similar effect.

How can we in Glenwood Springs, in good conscience, not do our part?

This program would not amount to government intrusion into our private lives. But it would be government offering us a choice to grow up, be responsible, and take part in the care of our planet.

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