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Debbie Gibbs

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February 10, 2014
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Plastic bag ban — the time has come

According to an article reported by The Union on Jan. 23, Nevada City is ready to implement a ban on single use plastic bags, but Grass Valley believes the ban needs further discussion among residents and businesses.

This is in spite of the fact that hundreds of cities and communities have implemented bans as they recognize that the use of these bags harms land and ocean alike, and benefits virtually no one except those that manufacture the bags.

Yes, plastic bags are a convenience, but at what price to our environment?

It is important to note that the impetus for this ban was a campaign spearheaded by a teacher and embraced by that teacher’s students.

The students understood the damage done to their environment by the bags. And their campaign to ban the bags was an important civics lesson on working within the community to accomplish a needed change.

My education on plastic occurred upon viewing a film at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival called “Bag It.” After viewing the film, I understood that the harm that plastic does to the wildlife that ingests the plastic.

And today our oceans now have entire dead areas that are composed of plastic trash.

Further, my belief that as a recycler I could rest on my laurels was shattered.

Nope, a lot of that recycled plastic never makes it to a new purpose, it is just added to the existing waste.

In my youth, there were no plastic bags. Paper, cloth bags and cardboard boxes were just fine for carrying our purchases.

In fact, my brother recalls washing out trash cans as a means to earn some extra spending money.

Now, of course, we line our trash cans with plastic bags to avoid that unsavory task (and our youth forfeits a source of earnings).

So I now use my cloth bags faithfully at grocery and other stores.

I have been known at check out to run out to my car for my bags rather than accept a cursed plastic bag, as the image of dying marine creatures has been an effective motivator.

But did I embark on a campaign to convince others? No, I was just too busy.

However, when I read about the campaign started by the students, I was delighted — and pleased that the same spirit that encourages many of our county’s residents and businesses to clean our beautiful rivers and pick up roadside trash was evident now in an initiative to stop the travesty of plastic bag use.

And Truckee passed a ban, hooray!

But I kept scanning The Union about Nevada County’s ban, alas no news.

Until the Jan. 23 article, which informs us that Grass Valley needed to fully consider all the aspects and consequences of a ban.

Why not consider the consequences of not acting expeditiously?

As busy adults, are we really incapable of planning far enough ahead to remember our bags?

OK, on occasion I do overbuy, but I can manage to pay a small fee for a bag.

An alternative approach, used by BriarPatch, is to refund five cents for each bag the customer furnishes.

And if you wish, BriarPatch will donate that refund to their community fund.

When I weigh the convenience of a plastic bag with the pollution, wasted fossil fuel resources or the injury or death of a creature, a little inconvenience is pretty insignificant.

And just as importantly, I think of the students who spent their free time on a cause they believed in.

What message are we busy adults sending to youngsters about the timeliness and effectiveness of government? Or about our concern for the environment that they must inhabit once we exit the stage?

Yes, it is only a plastic bag among a multitude of community issues.

But it does symbolize much more — our willingness to sacrifice just a little to diminish our footprint on the environment and our commitment to respond to future adults who care enough today to get involved in a cause they believe in.

I think it is time for Grass Valley and Nevada City to follow the example of 90 other California cities or counties, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, and implement an ordinance to ban on plastic bags.

Debbie Gibbs lives in Nevada City.


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The Union Updated Feb 10, 2014 09:58PM Published Feb 10, 2014 09:58PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.