After the initial hearing on Senate Bill 118, the Juneau Empire published a couple of letters regarding the "idiocy" of the bill. The arguments put forth circled around the question of "paper or plastic?" proving that the writers thoroughly internalized this stock phrase which concludes every shopping trip.
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Paper or plastic? Which one is better in terms of convenience of use and environmental impact? Nowhere does the bill even mention paper, but just as there is good and bad, black and white, we have been conditioned to think in terms of paper or plastic. Attempting to limit one must mean favoring, or at least condoning, the other. If the motivation behind the bill was to give a clear-cut answer to the question, well then I would agree that would really be "idiocy" and a sure sign of mental simplicity on the part of Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, and all who support the bill.
But what if the issue here is not paper or plastic? What if the bill wanted to reduce the often mindless and wasteful use of plastic bags without condoning the often mindless and wasteful use of paper bags, the manufacturing of which involves cutting down trees and polluting the environment? The question "paper or plastic?" is not an either/or question; there are other options here in the land of the free.
How about answering the friendly checkout person's inquiry with, "Thank you, but I brought my own canvas bag"?