Single-use plastics are one of the biggest issues facing environmental conservation today.
The impact of single-use plastics, especially lightweight petroleum plastic bags (which can’t be recycled), have been disastrous since their introduction to our daily routines.
The average American throws away ten plastic bags a week – but, plastic bags never really go away. They end up in landfills or polluting the landscapes that we rely on for their natural resources.
Plastic bags that have wandered from our grocery carts and into the ocean are ingested by animals like seabirds, turtles, fish, whales, and seals. Approximately 100,000 marine creatures and 1 million seabirds are found dead of plastic ingestion every year.
The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some eight million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year, while the 2016 World Economic Forum report projects that there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans by 2050 if current trends continue.
However, this harmful trend is actually on the cusp of changing in the U.S. – and one example of how is right here by UConn.
The town of Mansfield, Connecticut (home to the University of Connecticut) banned plastic checkout bags during a Town Council meeting on Monday, February 11th, 2019.
According to the Mansfield Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Mansfield residents use 8.6 million bags a year.
But, after 2 years of writing, debating, and amending, the Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance was passed by the Town Council with an almost unanimous vote (8 to 1). The ordinance will ban plastic checkout bags from being used in any Mansfield businesses and will come into full effect in August 2019. The full ordinance can be viewed here.
Mansfield’s Mayor Paul Shapiro explained his support for the ordinance to me.
“We cannot solve the issue of how much plastic gets into our waste stream and ends up destroying marine life and ends up in oceans in far corners of the world. We cannot solve that problem as the town of Mansfield,” Shapiro said. “What we can do is make a small contribution towards what is really a worldwide calamity in terms of ocean and sea life, and try to limit as best as we can the amount of plastic that goes into the waste stream.”
Council member and UConn political science professor Ronald Schurin told me that his hope is that other towns in Connecticut will follow suit.
“It’s a question about what one town can do,” said Schurin. “I would like, in the best of all worlds, to have this be a federal ban, actually an international ban. But, we can do what we can do. Here in this town we can join with other towns that have created the ban and create the momentum that will ultimately lead to a statewide ban.”
Plastic bag regulation is sparking conversation and action throughout Connecticut.
The legislature’s Environment Committee now has at least 18 different bag ban bills on its plate for this session.
Six towns have banned the bags already, and at least 16 others are considering similar action.
To check if your town is among these visit this article by the Hartford Courant:
The movement to ban plastic bags is one that people are passionate about, especially young kids.
Mansfield’s public hearing for the BYOB Ordinance showed an impressive display of youth environmental activism.
Dozens of middle schoolers and elementary students addressed the council directly. One boy exclaimed, “Citizens of Mansfield we have to ban plastic bags – if you want another generation after mine that is. We must take care of our environment!”
These students showed Mansfield that advocating for change can go a long way to improve the conditions of our environment.
Their ability to take action is something that we should all consider. It is easy to give up on fixing issues as impossibly large as ocean plastic pollution, but it is much more effective to instead apply the big issue to your local community and see what difference you can make small scale.
Let’s Bag Plastic Bags
By Joseph Curtin
New York Times
March 3, 2018
State Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation
National Conference of State Legislatures
Reusable Bag Campaign