PI Editorial: Bag fee alone won’t fix microplastics problem but can help reduce it

Post Independent Editorial Board

Free plastic shopping bags will soon be a thing of the past in Colorado — something we can regale our grandchildren with among stories about walking uphill both ways or not knowing where people were because we didn’t have cell phones.

In other words, they’ll be a thing of the past, and that doesn’t bother us one bit. The bag fee itself doesn’t take effect until 2024, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider changing our own plastic habits earlier. After all, single-use plastics are one of the most common pollutants worldwide.

Plastics also are incredibly difficult to fully break down, and microplastics are not just a worry for coastal communities. More and more research is showing that microplastics are permeating our snowpack at high elevations throughout the state, as reported by The Colorado Sun earlier this year.

The long-term impacts of ubiquitous microplastics aren’t yet known, but more and more dust and other materials in our snowpack can cause it to melt faster and worsen the effects of drought.

The state of Colorado charging a 10-cent fee per plastic bag isn’t going to fix the problem by any means, but we’re hopeful it could help lessen it in the long-term. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, charging for bags could help make for a more litter-free community.

Carbondale certainly seems to have more bag-free fences and trees after town leaders had the foresight 11 years ago to ban plastic shopping bags altogether. The town also requires a charge of 20 cents for paper bags.

But, just the conversation itself is a good opportunity to consider how we use items on the individual level, especially during the holiday season. There are plenty of good reasons to shop locally, and decreasing resource usage is likely not the one that immediately comes to mind for many of us. But, what has the greater impact on the environment? A half-dozen individual Amazon orders or spending a week or so browsing our local businesses and finding locally-sourced goods or items that, at the very least, have already shipped here?

From the packaging to the freight fuels to the energy consumed to keep major online retailers’ massive inventory up-to-date by the second, that click of a mouse carries a lot of downstream environmental impacts. Shopping local doesn’t mitigate all of that, but it certainly helps.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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