I’m a bit puzzled about the sense of outrage expressed by people who’d like to keep the convenience of having “free” (Smith’s does pay for them) single-use (I know, lots of people re-use them, which is great) plastic bags.
In 2008-2009 a group of kids in grades 4-6 (the Kinnikinnick Club) wanted to do something for the world. They researched small actions that could have a large effect and decided to ask Smith’s to encourage the use of cloth bags instead of paper or plastic. They gave a nice presentation to the Smith’s employees and Smith’s put up the signs you see now that say, “Did you forget your cloth bags?” Smith’s also gave a 5-cent credit (later a green points credit) to those using their own bags.
Did those kids (and Smith’s) make a difference? On March 9, 2009, the manager sent a letter telling the kids that Smith’s stores in Los Alamos and White Rock were under budget by 865,170 bags and added that that equated to “432 cases LESS in plastic bags making it to our land fill.” Furthermore, Smith’s then introduced this program “throughout the entire Kroger company.”
We know that many people just don’t want to be told by anyone what they can and can’t do—pretty understandable in a democracy. But we do accept limits on lots of things–dangerous chemicals, car speeds, building codes, trash disposal, seat belts–because these regulations keep us safer and healthier.
So consider what a small inconvenience it is for us to help use fewer natural resources and at the same time keep our oceans and landscapes healthier. The research will show you the hideous masses of plastic garbage in the well-documented ocean gyres. The real tragedy is that the plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that are eaten by the ocean life on which the world depends.
Closer to home, the bags create a mess in recycling centers because they clog the machinery.
As the kids of 2008 figured out, avoiding plastic is the wave of the future. This is a small step for Los Alamos but could be a large step for mankind and the earth.