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My Turn: Why I'm voting for the plastic bag initiative

Posted: September 30, 2011 - 12:03am

The plastic bag tax is not going to raise revenue for the city, because everyone can very easily avoid paying it. It is not going to force people not to use plastic bags because using them is still an option. It is just an effort to make us a little more self-sufficient, to address an ever increasing litter problem, and to make us a little more aware that we can do our part, as a community, to reverse a trend that is wreaking havoc on oceans everywhere.

No one has to pay this bag tax. But, if enough of us can form the habit of providing our own means of transporting goods from the store to our homes, then stores will eventually be able to eliminate the cost of buying plastic bags for us, a cost savings I’m sure any business would welcome.

I remember my grandparents carrying groceries home in various bags, boxes, and baskets. Somehow, over the past several decades we have become accustomed to throw-away bags. Many of us re-use them, but they still tend to pile up and find their way to our beaches, roadways, and land-fill.

It’s not easy to change a long-formed habit. I’m often frustrated to find that I’ve forgotten to bring a bag to a store. But, it gets easier when I see others trying to remember, too. Gradually I’m starting to leave bags in the car and by the front door. This initiative has been criticized for various reasons, but it is a start. All it really needs to do is raise our awareness that we can do something, even a very small thing, to make a difference in a global problem. After all, as a coastal community we have a bit more responsibility to look out for the ocean – and a greater stake in keeping it clean. If enough of us vote “yes” on this initiative, it would not only significantly reduce the number of plastic bags we use, but it would send the message that we want to do something about our huge consumption of plastic bags. We can implement and improve upon the idea once we get it started.

• Polasky lives in Juneau.

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