Letter To The Editor: On Banning Plastic Bags

Los Alamos

In response to the letter from Jody Benson (Let’s Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags):

First of all, I take issue with the misleading heading of the letter. These bags are most definitely NOT single-use. Our household reuses ALL of the plastic grocery bags that we bring home, mostly to collect and contain trash and garbage that get tossed into our roll cart for weekly collection.

We also use these bags for containing our lunch, which is then placed in our rucksacks, for hikes or for work, and they are thus reused many times. I want to emphasize that we do not throw away ANY of these bags, except as containers for trash and garbage, until they become unusable because of tears after multiple uses.

So, before proceeding any further with this campaign to ban these bags, I suggest that the organizers present evidence to the residents of Los Alamos that these bags are being discarded IN LOS ALAMOS after only the single use for which they are principally intended – viz., to carry purchases home from the grocery store.

Second, what is the suggested replacement for the container of our trash and garbage that now goes into our roll carts? Must we then purchase plastic bags for this purpose? These replacement plastic bags are much thicker than the thin plastic bags we get at the grocery store, which means they take much longer to degrade. What about paper bags? Are they to be purchased also? How
much faster does a thick paper bag degrade than the thin plastic grocery bags we now use? Give us the evidence on the cost and degradation of the various alternatives.

Third, what is the evidence that these plastic grocery bags are causing a litter problem here in Los Alamos? Just look around. Do you see these plastic bags being blown down your street by the wind? Are they collecting in gutters and on fences on your street? Are they really a problem in Los Alamos? By my observation, the answer is NO. We have lived here for almost 50 years, and I can’t remember this ever being a problem in Los Alamos. It just doesn’t do to present statistics on world-wide use of these plastic bags that may not be applicable to Los Alamos. So, evidence should be presented on what the facts are for Los Alamos.

Last, it is my impression that this is simply a “feel-good” issue. In many parts of the world, these plastic bags are indeed “single-use”, and they do end up as litter. And it might make us feel virtuous to join other communities, where these bags are a problem, by banning these bags here. But they are NOT a problem here, and banning them would add additional costs for their replacement, without any environmental improvement.