Letter to the Editor: Ban Plastic Bags In Los Alamos

Los Alamos

Let’s Ban the single-use plastic shopping bag in Los Alamos.

When I was four, we lived on a farm in Maryland. One day, in a weedy pasture where sunflowers grew higher than my head to hide the trash that the locals threw there, and through which ran a drain that at the time seemed to me a stream, I found in that drain a discarded empty bottle of Halo shampoo out of which spewed bubbles.

I thought those bubbles were beautiful as they caught, prismed and sparkly, in the weeds at the side of the seep. I called my dad. “Look! Look! See how pretty?” But he came and stopped me from picking up the bottle and told me it was trash and that people shouldn’t litter like that. It took only a moment of training to understand that what I thought was excellent was, when viewed through the maturity of right and wrong, a bad thing.

It took decades to train us, and laws to forbid it, but nowadays most people know it’s bad to toss trash from the car window, or to casually drop a wrapper, bottle or McDonald’s bag in the parking lot.  Only arrogant kids or ignorant adults litter.

Trashing is not something caring people do. It took decades to train us to what is now so obvious, but the good thing? We can learn how to daily do the right thing. But here’s something that
we’re still oblivious to: that sweet little single-use disposable plastic shopping bag that so many of us love because it’s so darned convenient? That bag is shockingly harmful to the environment.

The nice little jobbie that costs only 3¢ to make out of petroleum and other chemicals, the thing that we use by the billions world-wide every day, that costs US retailers $4 billion annually to give away for free—that little blow-away, throw-away bag that’s being banned outright or taxed in multiple countries (including Bangladesh, the Philippines, and soon, the entire EU), tangles in trees, gathers in rivers, gets eaten by animals, and coagulates with the rest of its brother-and-sister plastic trash in four plastic gyres in the ocean—two of which are the size of France—this plastic bag is completely unnecessary. In a couple years, five, we’ll all realize that caring people don’t need the single-use disposable plastic shopping bag, just as we don’t need littered roads or trashed pastures.

Many of us carry our own bags to Smiths—or, at least, we carry them in the car with the intention of using them if we didn’t oh-darn forget. But, just as we’re educated enough to understand it’s better to bring our own bags, education isn’t enough to actually make us return through the vast parking lot to the car to retrieve them. We know better. But, like littering, it takes the extra impetus to remind us to actually remember.

That extra impetus would be to join the at least 132 other US cities to ban the single use plastic shopping bag here in Los Alamos. You don’t agree?

What don’t you agree about? That bags aren’t bad? If you think bags aren’t bad for the environment and the future, ask a Green Team or PEEC kid. They know. They’re the ones leading their parents to No Plastic Bags.

Don’t know any kids to ask? Come to the Reel Deal at 7 p.m., Thursday Feb. 5 to see BagIt, The Movie. Even though I’ve been bringing my own bags for 15 years, this film convinced me that in order to protect the environment, everybody else has to, too.

Forty years ago Americans thought it was okay to Trash Texas (and New Mexico and everywhere else). But I’ll bet in 2015, not a single person reading this thinks it’s okay to toss your Starbucks’ cup out the car window.

I also bet everybody thinks it’s a good idea to have a law against littering. That same common sense applies to eliminating the single-use plastic shopping bag.

Seriously. Plastic pollution is a global problem. One small, simple step is to ban the bag everywhere, including here. The request for the plastic-bag ban will go before Council soon. Come see why it’s imperative to pass it.

Come see BagIt The Movie, at 7 p.m., Feb. 5 at the Reel Deal.