LETTER: ‘I am in favor of a ban on plastic bags and other single use plastics’

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Burien and B-Town Blog:

I attended a Special Study Session of the Burien City Council last night, and learned a lot about recycling and plastic bags.

We learned that most plastic bags end up in landfill or bundled into recycling. Unfortunately a fair amount also get thrown on the ground or blown out of someone’s hand and into the environment. Considering that every year a trillion new bags are produced worldwide, the number that get away is very large.

We learned that plastic bags never decompose, and it take centuries to degrade. They form huge rafts of plastic in the oceans. On land and sea, they can be deadly to animals that accidentally eat them or get tangled in them. When they don’t kill, they are an eyesore and tend to attract other clutter around themselves. Eventually they break into tiny particles that are eaten by shellfish. When we eat clams, oysters or mussels we are also eating the micro plastic they ate.

As a gardener, a beach steward, a lover of animals and a volunteer litter remover in Burien, I see out of control plastic bags wherever I go.

The city is giving very serious thought to banning plastic bags. It is also looking into banning other types of single use plastic such as foam clamshells, straws and beverage cup lids. They are well aware that change is difficult. They will eventually be asking businesses in the community for feedback on what costs and challenges they expect from such a ban.

As you can probably tell, I am in favor of a ban on plastic bags and other single use plastics. Bags are a convenience that will get used as long as they are available. If they are banned, everyone will adapt and we will reduce the damage we do to our sea life.

I don’t see a need to wait for a ban for us to make individual changes. I encourage everyone to take their own steps to reduce single use plastic consumption, regardless of what the city does.

Do you need to put your restaurant leftovers in a single use, poorly closing foam clamshell? Consider bringing your own reusable container instead. It will keep the food fresher and keep food odors out of the refrigerator. Food won’t leak out around the edges. You will get to use it again. Clamshells retain food odors no matter how well rinsed, and attract wildlife to the trash bin. Whenever I’m confronted with one I find myself scrubbing it with soap to get rid of residue, then crunching it up into the trash bag and throwing it away. For the next several hundred years this clam shell that annoyed me the one time I used it will slowly disintegrate and bits of it will be eaten by actual clams.

Some small businesses will be more impacted by a plastic bag ban than larger ones. They may offer paper bags, but these cost more and stores that offer great prices are reluctant to pass on extra costs. Let the shop owners know you are committed to shopping there and bringing your own bags.

Several speakers last night mentioned that they already bring their own bags, but that it’s awkward asking cashiers to change their bagging routine to accomodate. I found some guidelines for best practices when bringing reusable bags. The cashiers need to keep the line moving and these steps can help them:

  • Empty your reusable shopping bags completely between uses
  • Wash your reusable bags regularly
  • Place your reusable grocery bags at the front of the conveyer belt so the cashier knows you have them
  • Separate your reusable shopping bags so the cashier can easily grab each one as needed.
  • Open folding reusable bags while you are waiting in line
  • When putting groceries on the conveyor, group heavy/bulky things together to be packed into the bottoms of your reusable grocery bags. The lighter items can go on top until each reusable bag is full.
  • Show respect to your cashier by saying hello, please and thank-you, may I help. End phone calls before speaking to the cashier.

– Sarah Moore
Burien Resident

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