Better Recycling Will Reduce Reliance On Plastic Bags

Dr. Sherri Mason, the State University at Fredonia professor and plastic pollution researcher who led a successful effort to ban the use of products with microbeads, is right.

Society needs to reduce its reliance on plastic bags. One of the main concerns surrounding plastic bags is the fact they aren’t biodegradable. Instead, the bags break down into small pieces and enter the environment where they can absorb chemicals and be injected into living organisms like fish.

“One single plastic bag can form billions of little pieces of plastic that can make their way into organisms,” Mason told The Post-Journal. “This is an issue that’s kind of like microbeads. This is something we can tackle.”

She’s right. This is an issue that we can tackle.

We hope a state task force’s recommendations don’t fall into the same old predictable government method of changing behavior by creating a new tax. Trying to decrease plastic bag use is a noble goal, but every encroachment into the checkbooks of private citizens adds up. A few dollars for paid family leave doesn’t seem like much until you add it to a few dollars a month for a plastic bag fee or to buy reusable bags and then add to it the next small tax that will surely be coming down the line. Too often, the decision makers who are sitting at the table forget what it like to struggle to make ends meet. A few dollars here or there doesn’t seem like much until you don’t have a few extra dollars to spare.

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, believes recycling is a better answer. She’s right, as she often is, for two reasons. In addition to not costing people who don’t have money to spare, better recycling of plastic bags will have an additional benefit of not creating even more hassle at supermarket checkout lines. Paying for groceries can be a hassle, as anyone who has spent 10 or 15 minutes waiting in line — particularly with small children — can attest. Imagine waiting for every shopper at Wal-Mart or Tops with a $200 or $300 grocery order to set up their reusable bags or their reused plastic bags for the cashier to refill. Checking out needs to be easier, not harder.

It is hard to remember a time when we didn’t recycle cans and plastic. We can do the same with plastic bags — with no bans or taxes needed.