Plastic bags and the EnvisionLV 2014 Sustainability Challenge
In a week I will be moving to Lehigh Valley which means lately I have been doing a lot of packing and cleaning. Noticing that everytime there’s a move I face the same problem: a mountain of plastic bags stored in a cabinet or the kitchen closet. This has led me to decide to take the EnvisionLV 2014 Sustainability Challenge by avoiding using plastic bags from stores altogether and instead use reusable cloth bags. I have been looking for plastic bags recycle bins at grocery stores close to where I live in NJ and I haven’t found them. That leaves me guessing… What options do I have? There are only so many bags I can use to clean my cat’s litter and as trash bags but in the end it is not enough, I still always have so many extra.
Now, working as a volunteer for RenewLV I learned about the 2014 Sustainability Challenge. This has led me to take a personal challenge: after moving to PA I won’t get plastic bags from grocery stores! By avoiding the use of plastic bags and shopping regularly at farmers markets I will also alleviate the waste of plastic/Styrofoam containers generated at home which will help me support the local economy, be a smart customer and also help the environment.
Lately, Emmaus Patch has posted news about banning plastic bags. That same week the Mayor of Allentown, Ed Pawlowski, questioned on his Facebook profile what people think about banning plastic bags. The reactions were varied. A lot of people were in favor of the idea; some were not. Some people based their denial of the banning to a study that found that reusable bags could carry bacteria such as: EColi. However, the same study mentioned that the bacteria could be eliminated by a 99.9% if washed frequently. Others didn’t like the idea of banning because they don’t want to be told what to do by government. In addition, some people mentioned that they recycle and/or reuse plastic bags and that they don’t consider it necessary to ban plastic bags. While I see recycling as an option to try and mitigate environmental impact as a result of the waste we all generate, I realize it is not an absolute solution. A better one would be to reduce waste as much as possible because the recycling process used now requires a lot of energy, in addition to the energy already used to produce the bags.
It’s easy to think that our individual decisions do not have much of an impact. While studying this proposal, I found images and information about the plastic bag soup in the Pacific Ocean. I recommend everybody to go to this link and learn more about it. These images are impressive and disturbing! People, including the greenest city of New York, have thrown trash to the ocean in the past. Plastic waste accumulation, in sum with ocean currents and water temperatures contribute to a growing toxic situation that negatively impacts sea life. If you wonder what you can do to make a difference, look at the amount of plastic bags lying around your home. If you have a pile like I did, place them in your trunk and drop them off in the recycle bins found at the entrance of many grocery stores. Finally, buy a couple of reusable bags for your grocery shopping, use them, washing them frequently. Also, start buying fresh food from a local farmer market. Here is a list supplied by Buy Fresh Buy Local. This will improve your health and the health of those you love, decrease the amount of plastic containers and contribute to our local Lehigh Valley economy. According to 2013 Buy Fresh Buy Local assessment report “if each one of the 241,047 household in the valley were to spend just $10 on locally grown food during the growing season… [it] would result in the annual generation of $97 million in economic activity”.
In sum, I encourage Allentown residents to support local ordinances that ban plastic bags in Allentown and the other 61 Lehigh Valley municipalities. If are not a resident of Allentown, support this initiative in your municipality.
And to the mayor of Allentown… my answer is yes! Please ban all plastic bags, not only our present residents will appreciate it, but our future generations and the environment will be on the road to recover from all we have taken for granted. Thank you for leading an eco-friendly attitude!
Michelle M. Diaz Laboy