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Deposit could reduce plastic bag disposal
September 15, 2017

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Society needs to reduce its reliance on throwaway plastic bags. They aren't biodegradable. Instead, they break down into small pieces and enter the environment, where they can absorb chemicals and be injected into living organisms such as fish.

"One single plastic bag can form billions of little pieces of plastic that can make their way into organisms," Sherri Mason, a SUNY Fredonia professor and plastic pollution researcher, told the Post-Journal newspaper of Jamestown. "This is an issue that's kind of like microbeads. This is something we can tackle."

She's right. This is an issue that we can tackle.

We hope, however, that a state task force's recommendations don't fall into the same predictable government method of using a new tax to change behavior. Trying to decrease plastic bag use is a noble goal, but every encroachment into the checkbooks of private citizens adds up. A few dollars for paid family leave doesn't seem like much until you add it to a few dollars a month for a plastic bag fee or to buy reusable bags, and then add to it the next small tax that will surely be coming down the line. Too often, the decision makers who are sitting at the table forget what it like to struggle to make ends meet. A few dollars here or there doesn't seem like much until you don't have a few extra dollars to spare.

Recycling is a better answer. Many supermarkets and recycling centers already have places to put plastic bags, but not enough people use these - yet.

What about a nickel deposit as an incentive to recycle? That has reduced the number of bottles and cans that litter our world, and it got even better when the state legislature added that deposit for bottled water a few years ago.

It certainly wouldn't reclaim all the plastic bags. For instance, we ourselves reuse them as household trash can liners and then tie each one up and put it in a bigger bag or bin. Those small plastic bags join the garbage all the way to a landfill, where, we now realize, they break into tiny, problematic pieces.

But with a deposit, we'd know that each plastic bag we use to bag trash is a nickel thrown away. We might choose to scrimp and save that money, and recycle the bags separately.

It is sometimes hard to remember a time when we didn't recycle cans, glass, plastic and paper - but now it's routine, and the world is better for it. We can do the same with plastic bags, with no bans or taxes needed.

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