Letter: Plastic Chokes Our Waterways, Oceans and Marine Life

Letter to the editor in support of the plastic ban ordinance submitted by Mareta Hamre

I was on the 17th floor of a building in New York City the other day and saw a plastic bag float by the window, roughly 170 feet above the ground.  It reminded me of the plastic bags I have seen closer to home: waving from trees and fences, others grimy and mottled in gutters waiting to be flushed down the sewer lines, and others in the woods by the trail that I hike by my house.

I try to put them out of my mind – that is the easiest way to feel better.

But our waterways and oceans and their marine life don’t have that luxury.

They are choked by plastic: according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

We like to think that we can keep using these very convenient plastic bags if everyone just recycles them.  We have tried that and it simply has not worked:

  • People simply don’t recycle bags, even when that is an easy option.
  • Plastic bags cannot be recycled if they are dirty.
  • When they are put into single stream recycling, the bags clog recycling machines.
  • As of last November, a new Connecticut regulation excludes plastic bags from single stream recycling due to the problems they cause.

Each year, nearly one billion single-use plastic bags are used just in Connecticut.  These bags go everywhere: when they are not in the air or in our water, they will either last forever (since they are not biodegradable) or be incinerated, creating toxic ash which has to be buried in specially designed and lined landfills.

I, along with the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and a long list of local businesses and groups, support the reusable checkout bag ordinance that the Town Selectmen passed in December and which is now under consideration by the RTM.

This proposed ordinance has been developed through lessons learned from other plastic bag ordinances passed in cities around the country and around the world, so it is more likely to succeed.  The 25 cents generated from the sale of recycled paper bags (sold to anyone who does not bring their own bag) will go back to local businesses, who will be partners in our effort to keep our community and waters clean.  I hope you, and the RTM, join this growing group.