Plastic Bag Ban Support
At our October meeting, the Hudson Land Trust board of directors voted unanimously to endorse article 17, a bylaw to eliminate the usage of single plastic checkout bags. The board feels that this ban will have a meaningful impact on town conservation resources. A reduction in the number of plastic bags used will have a direct impact on the number of plastic bags that are disposed of improperly. A reduction in plastic bag litter will improve the visual appeal of our conservation areas and make them more pleasant to walk through. It will also support healthier ecosystems for our wildlife and our water supply.
On average, each person uses 523 single-use plastic bags per year. This means that combined Hudson residents alone may be using a staggering 10 million bags per year. Even if some bags are reused for pet cleanup or trash can liners we are still wasting more bags than are necessary. There are alternatives for these purposes such as compostable trash bags. Ask your favorite grocery store to stock them, if they don’t already.
Only a small percentage of plastic bags, between 4% and 8%, are recycled. This means that most are ending up in landfills, incinerators, drainage, or as litter. In each of these locations, plastics have an impact on our daily lives. We have a responsibility to manage plastic appropriately and prevent the harmful side effects.
Single-use plastic bags are free, but that doesn’t mean they are cheap. There are significant hidden costs associated with single-use plastics. As they breakdown, or are incinerated, they release harmful gasses that contribute to global warming. Plastic bags clog our drainage system which needs to be manually cleaned out, at taxpayer expense. If the bags aren’t removed they can contribute to drainage overflow and localized flooding during significant precipitation events (heavy rain and snowmelt). Plastic bags are produced using oil and natural gas, which is extracted and refined in taxpayer-subsidized operations. We might not pay for an individual bag, but we pay to have them produced and we pay the costs of disposal.
The health risks of plastic pollution are currently unknown, but we do know that plastic has been detected in our food and water supply. Most plastics don’t biodegrade, instead, they break into tiny pieces that can infiltrate our food and water. The smaller the piece the farther up the food chain they are detectable. The smallest piece can make it all the way into the meat that we consume.
So should individuals run out and buy reusable linen or cotton bags? Not necessarily. If you already have them, keep using them, but you might not want to buy new ones. These use significantly more resources to produce. Durable polypropylene bags can be produced with much less energy and water than cloth bags. These bags can be used for years and are easy to keep clean. Similarly, nylon mesh bags are easy to transport and are great for fruits and vegetables. Let’s use plastic as it was designed. This technology gives us strong and lightweight storage, so let’s stop throwing it away.
Please attend Town Meeting on November 18th and vote “yes” on article 17!
Director, Hudson Land Trust
Member, Green Hudson