EDITORIAL

Don't sack plastic bags yet

Posted

Plastic bags are terrible for the environment. Absolutely terrible.

Millions of them are distributed each year — and that’s just in New York City. It’s near impossible to reuse them or recycle them. And they consume valuable space in our landfills.

If the question is, “Do we ban plastic bags?” then the answer is yes — eventually.

But first, we need to find viable alternatives for those who depend on the convenience of such bags to get needed goods from store to home. 

Reusable bags are a great option to plastic bags. They aren’t thrown away. They’re sturdy. They have handles. 

But they’re also not easy to carry around if you don’t have a car. 

That seems to be one of the key variables left out of the plastic bag conversation. If you have to walk a good distance, or hop the train or bus, non-handled paper bags won’t do you any good, nor will carrying around several reusable bags — where are you supposed to put them?

As bad as plastic bags are for the environment, at least right now they are by far the best means for those who commute without vehicles to carry large amounts of goods.

Yet, any tax on bags hurts these people who, if given a better choice, would leave those plastic bags behind. Instead, they are forced to eat that cost, and deal with the scorn the public has imposed on them.

Plastic bags overtook its paper counterparts at grocery stores long ago because of not only the inexpensive cost to produce, but the flexibility it gave shoppers in how much they can carry at one time. 

Paper bags are limited to two per trip, maybe three if you’ve got some great balance skills. Plastic bags, however, could be carried a dozen at a time — especially convenient for people who simply cannot make multiple trips between home and the store in a single day.

We are not advocating plastic bags. We want them to go away as fast as possible.

But we can’t discard them fully without considering the ramifications to a majority of this city’s residents who don’t own cars.

We need viable alternatives that take their situations into account, and we need those alternatives before the city discards its last plastic bag.

Saving the environment should be our top priority. But so should making sure our neighbors — and ourselves — can effectively function in this society.

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