Plastic bags are not 'perfectly safe'

In the letter to the editor “Paper or plastic?” printed July 10, the writer says that “paper grocery bags were banned and plastic bags introduced.”

Paper bags were never banned. The reason plastic bags were introduced is because they were cheaper and the grocers wanted to save money. Some grocers claimed they stopped providing paper for environmental reasons to “save the trees,” but I don't recall that very many environmentalists bought into that argument.

He also says “Plastic bags are an oil product. The oil came out of the ground and it is perfectly safe to put the bag back into the ground.” If that argument was valid then it would also be true that lead, radioactive uranium, mercury and asbestos, all of which are mined from the ground, can be safely put back into land fills. In fact, all of these are banned from landfills because health officials will not allow it. My mother died a painful death because of cancer caused by “perfectly safe” asbestos, so I have some experience in this matter.

Plastic bags have been called “urban tumbleweeds” because unlike paper bags, they blow around with the slightest breeze. They get into streams and oceans, which impacts wildlife. Okay, that is an environmental issue, but it also has an economic effect on fishing.

The reason that 10 cents is charged is to compensate grocers for the added cost of providing the more expensive paper bags. This seems a fair deal. It is true that it is unsanitary to put products that leak such as meat into reusable bags. These need to be double wrapped in plastic bags before going into a reusable bag, and the grocer will do this at no extra charge. So what's the big deal?

Steve Mills

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