The La Cañada Flintridge City Council misses the point of the plea to ban plastic bags. The objective of banning plastic bags is to contribute our small part toward reducing the nearly infinite supply of bags that continually contaminates the environment. And no reduction of any supply can come about until the demand for a product is profoundly changed.
According to the website reuseit.com, the U.S. uses 100 billion bags per year, stimulating an annual production of 4 million tons of bags while consuming 27 million barrels of oil in the process. Of this quantity of bags produced, approximately 3.5 million tons end up un-recycled in the environment each year, filling landfills, finding its way to rivers and to the oceans, and as urban tumbleweed. This massive production with its inherent high environmental cost is driven by the high demand for this product. The objective of encouraging communities to disallow general distribution of plastic bags is an attempt to reduce this demand. If all of the nation’s communities were to band together and disallow the use of plastic bags, the demand for these bags could be dramatically reduced. A reduction of 90% is potentially realizable. A 90% reduction in the demand for plastic bags would save 24 million barrels of oil each year and the environment would experience an annual reduction of more than 3 million tons of contaminants. But this goal is not possible unless every community participates toward achieving it.
La Cañada is surrounded by communities that are participating, or are willing to participate, in the reduction of plastic-bag use. But La Cañada itself has opted not even to study the issue.
Each day school children are learning how precious the Earth’s environment is and how we as its stewards must protect it for our future. Must we wait for the children of La Cañada to bring this issue to our attention? Or are we, as their adults, going to lead the way and show that we too are environmentally responsible?
This issue has nothing to do with La Cañada becoming a “nanny state.” It’s much bigger than that.
Philip I. Moynihan