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State Should Step Up Efforts To Provide Reusable Bags

On a nice spring day earlier this week, one shouldn’t have been surprised to see a woman pushing a stroller up a sidewalk on Baker Street.

What was surprising was that there was no child in the stroller. The stroller was filled to the brim with paper grocery bags.

There are many reasons why some people are opposed to the state’s plastic bag ban. Some dislike yet another governmental intrusion into their lives, particularly an intrusion that comes with money attached. Some have not so fond memories of paper bags ripping if they weren’t loaded just right. Some have over time developed dozens of other uses for plastic bags.

Those who don’t drive, however, are probably having the hardest time dealing with the plastic bag ban. Paper bags are harder to carry than their plastic counterparts, especially if you’re walking long distances. For people on a fixed income, the five or six dollar difference for reusable plastic bags might as well be $100. The $5 or $10 that some people spend without batting an eye on reusable bags is baby food, milk or bread for lower-income families. Families trying to stretch every dollar — and U.S. Census statistics say there are many of them in our community — will opt for the paper bags at 5 cents each rather than the 99 cent or more reusable bags even though buying the reusable bags makes more sense to buy them in the long-term.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said in February that the department would distribute more than 270,000 free reusable bags to low- and moderate-income communities at events at food banks across the state. If it did so, or plans to do so, in Chautauqua County the effort hasn’t been publicized. The state should step up its efforts to provide reusable bags to low- and moderate-income residents in high-poverty areas and be sure to advertise their availability so that those who need the reusable bags get them.

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