Letter to the editor: Reduce carbon footprint with right ordinance

Posted:  Sunday, March 4, 2018 - 10:15pm

If Rockland wants to create a bag policy that is truly environmentally effective it is necessary that we pass an ordinance requiring that all stores charge a nominal fee for paper bags, along with the ban on single-use plastic bags. The fee and ban together are the best way to ensure the policy will reduce our overall carbon footprint. 

While banning plastic bags and replacing them with free-to-the-customer paper bags may sound like a good idea, these policies can actually lead to cities having a larger carbon footprint. Yes, these cities will see less plastic bags floating around, but their overall hidden pollution and environmental impact may actually increase. This is because more pollution and resources go into the making of paper bags, with each needing to be used four times to reduce its “global warming potential” to that of a single-use plastic bag, according to an April 2017 article by the Berkeley Science Review. According to the article, single-use paper bags are also considered, counter-intuitively, to have more toxicity to terrestrial and marine environments compared to plastic bags. 

The way to make the ordinance authentically environmentally-friendly is to stick with a policy that is proven to incentivize the use of reusable bags. The small fee that stores charge for a paper bag is far and away what works best for changing people’s shopping habits. While even reusable bags require a big environmental cost to produce, over time and use, their initial carbon footprint pays off compared to paper and plastic. 

I hope that Rockland will pass an ordinance that will be something we can feel truly proud of. If we do pass the currently-written ordinance, applied across the board, it will be one of the best and most environmentally effective in the state. The Natural Resources Council of Maine is strongly supporting it, as well as many local businesses, organizations and individuals. 

I encourage supporters to speak in favor of it at the Rockland City Council meeting on Monday, March 12, 6 p.m. at Rockland City Hall, when Council will be voting on it.

 Becca Shaw Glaser lives in Rockland