Thus far, eight states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont) have banned single-use plastic bags in the U.S. Fourteen others, including Florida, have moved in the opposite direction, adopting laws to tie the hands of local officials. In January, New Jersey attempted to pass a law banning single-use plastics, but the bill failed. Why? Why aren’t all 50 states on-board with this legislation? Take a look at what plastic bags and bottles are doing …
And the answer to the question why all 50 states aren’t doing their part is simple … the GOP motto is: profit over all else. Profit is more important in this nation than people, than wildlife, than the environment … in fact, today’s profit is more important than life on earth tomorrow for far too many of our so-called ‘leaders’. I could expound at some length about this concept, but for today I have a single focus: those damn re-usable plastic bags that they shove down our throats at the grocery store.
Even though only eight states thus far have banned plastic bags, it’s a start, it’s progress. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have raised public awareness and many of us now bring our own reusable canvas bags to the grocery and use reusable mesh bags for produce. Even with that, the stores have been very slow in finding packaging alternatives, so we still end up with unwanted plastic in our rubbish. Single use plastics account for around 20% of solid rubbish in the U.S., and only about 10% of that is recycled, so 90% ends up in landfills, rivers and ultimately the ocean.
Never let it be said that big industries, focused solely on profit, miss an opportunity to increase their profit, even at the cost of earth’s future. Enter the coronavirus. By March 18th, the plastic industry in the U.S. had kicked into high gear. The trade group Plastics Industry Association requested that the US Department of Health endorse the idea that “single-use plastic products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications.” A conservative nonprofit called the Independent Women’s Forum started running ads pressuring Washington state, New York, and California to reverse their bag bans. IWF’s ad’s claim: “Researchers say COVID-19 can survive on reusable tote bags for nine days. However, some state legislators are enforcing draconian bans on plastic bags, which might contribute to the spread of the virus and other harmful microorganisms.”
Many of the groups that have picked up these claims, including the Manhattan Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute, receive support from the Kochs, the infamous family of moguls who made their fortune in the petrochemical industry. Now are you starting to smell a rat? The plastic industry’s tactics seem to be working: Maine’s plastic bag ban was supposed to go into effect on April 22, but it’s been postponed till January 2021. New Hampshire’s governor Christopher Sununu, who has misrepresented climate science, has gone further to use the state of emergency to temporarily ban reusable bags. Republicans in Washington state, New York, and New Jersey have been waging campaigns to reverse or delay the blue states’ bans because of coronavirus.
On Sunday, when I had access to daughter Chris’ car and could go to a grocery store a bit farther afield than the Kroger that is only a half-mile from my home (my van is not reliable and I go no further in it than I could walk home), I went to the Meijer store, a midwestern chain, hoping to find some of those rare items such as toilet paper and Clorox wipes that had been impossible to find at Kroger. A sign on the door warned that re-usable bags were prohibited, but I entered anyway, figuring to argue the point when I got to the check out. But a young manager stopped me almost before my posterior had cleared the automatic doors and informed me that I could not bring “those bags” into the store. I rarely give away pieces of my mind, as I have so few left, but he got a rather large piece. Enraged, I accused him of personally killing every fish in the ocean and also told him that the lives of his own grandchildren (he was only about 25) were on his shoulders, as he was ensuring they would die from lack of water to drink and air to breathe. I then indignantly stormed out and returned to my own Kroger, hoping against all hope that they had not implemented a similar rule. They hadn’t, but I was informed I would have to bag my own groceries, for they wouldn’t touch my bags.
Now, there are two things to argue here. First of all, my bags are a few million times less likely to have any form of germ, let alone a corona-bug, on them than that can of peas you see in aisle #12, or even the tomatoes you picked up in produce. My bags were wiped down with disinfecting wipes after their last use, and have resided in my locked van ever since. They are sterile! Every item in the store is germier than my bags!
The other thing, and the whole point of this post, is that the coronavirus pandemic is a short-term problem. Yes, a very serious problem at this time, but nonetheless one with a limited lifespan. Destruction of the environment is an ongoing problem that is shortening the hope for the continuation of life … any life … on earth every single day. Just because we have a serious problem with this pandemic does not mean we can ignore all the other problems in the world! The coronavirus has resulted in thousands of deaths and may even rise into the millions. I’m not making light of that, but there are 7.8 billion human inhabitants on this planet, and exponentially more other life forms that rely on us turning around the damage that has been done over the past 150-200 years. Plastics in all forms are part of that destruction, and single use plastic bottles and bags are one of the biggest culprits.
The re-usable bags aren’t the problem, but rather the excuse that is being used as the plastic industry seeks to profit from this human crisis. Once again, We the People are being lied to and tricked, and I for one am damned sick and tired of it. And for the record, I will never shop at Meijer again, nor any other store that attempts to force me to use their plastic bags! Excuse me … I need to breathe now.