On Feb. 11, the Mansfield Town Council voted 8-1 in favor of a citywide plastic checkout bag ban, which will be enacted in approximately six months. This new development, in tandem with the UConn Dining Services’ recent transition from plastic bags and containers to reusable alternatives, demonstrates students’ ability to inspire positive change and opens up the possibility of meeting even more ambitious milestones (e.g. Connecticut imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic products). As local and on-campus communities adapt to these transitions, it is critical to both acknowledge their benefits and devise ways in which we can continue protecting our ever-vulnerable environment.
Of course, cutbacks on single-use plastic products greatly benefit the environment. After all, single-use plastic accounts for billions of tons of our daily waste output, and its duration in landfills is disproportionately higher than that of its average use. The increasing accessibility of reusable, environmentally friendly products and practices only makes the waste crisis more preventable, and future generations should not have to suffer because of our shortsightedness. Before procreating, however, we must ensure that we are not suffocating our air supply, land masses and water bodies with pollutants that will endanger ourselves and other innocent life; surely a prohibition of obsolete, excessive plastic would help in this regard.
In midst of the anti-plastic bag initiative, we can continue to shed light on critical issues and preserve our environment. For one, we must dispel myths that reflect negatively upon the movement. If, for example, we outline the fact that “exceptions (to Mansfield’s impending plastic bag ban) include trash bags used in the home, dog poop bags, publication bags, dry cleaning garment bags and ‘re-usable’ plastic bags brought to stores by customers,” then the legislation may appear more reasonable to skeptics. We must also counter the dissenting argument that a plastic bag ban will drive away customers and thus hurt small businesses, for items that fit inside plastic bags are typically small enough to be carried by themselves, and local businesses’ reputations and finances would likely be compromised moreso by a failure to comply with widely supported, environmentally friendly ordinances. As Mansfield councilperson Ben Shaiken proposed, we can provide fellow citizens with the necessary resources to ease into the transition to reusable bags. Finally, we should continue advocating for progressive climate-related legislation that calls for a statewide plastic bag ban; appropriate tactics might include collecting petitions, contacting local legislators and spreading awareness through social media and local news platforms.
As inconvenient as they may seem at a surface level, the local and campuswide plastic bag bans ultimately serve as formidable counters to a widespread environmental epidemic. Hopefully, other statewide universities and facilities become green with envy at our positive press and follow suit. Provided that we use plastic and other toxic materials as minimally as possible and dispose of them properly, we and other life forms can thrive on Earth for centuries to come; in other words, we’ve got this in the bag!
Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.