by: Lori Fickus
State Senator Kim Elton, D-Juneau, has sponsored Senate Bill 118, which would place a .15 cent fee on plastic shopping bags. The Bill Title reads: an Act establishing a fee for disposable plastic bags distributed by retail sellers of goods or services to consumers to carry away or protect goods; and establishing the litter and marine debris reduction and recycling fund.
The fees collected from the Act would go into a recycling and litter clean up fund. Elton's statement on the bill gives insight into a problem that many consumers don't consider when shopping, " Globally we consume almost 1 million plastic bags per minute or 500 billion annually. The USA consumes 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually - equal to about 12 million barrels of oil. US retailers spend an estimated $4 billion on disposable plastic bags annually, the cost of which is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices."
This tragedy of convenience must be stopped. These plastic wonders are made from oil, and they are not biodegradable, that means they sit in our landfills and break into smaller and smaller pieces leaching plastic into our soil and water. They also get into the animal food web. Senator Elton's statement also tells us, "Each year, more than 100,000 marine mammal deaths can be attributed to ingesting plastic bags mistaken for food. The plastic bags choke the animals or block their intestines. A Barrow hunter reports a polar bear barfing up plastic bags.
Paper or plastic? So how do you haul your groceries home? The Sierra club recommends a reusable bag. They tell us on their website, "The energy and other environmental impacts embodied in a plastic grocery bag is somewhat less than in a paper grocery bag. But paper is easier to recycle, being accepted in most recycling programs. The recycling rate for plastic bags is very low. So, which is better for the environment? Neither! The fact is that the difference between paper and plastic RECYCLING is small compared with the REUSING bags." In Fort Yukon, their community store does not offer plastic bags, and each resident uses a cloth bag or alternative method to pack home their supplies.
Contact your representatives in support of SB 118!