Letter: Falmouth voters should make bag-ban decision

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The light of freedom seems to have grown dimmer in Falmouth recently because of a proposed ban on plastic bags that we sometimes re-use to pack our lunches or carry donations to Goodwill. These practices seem to be destroying the planet and we must stop.

What concerns me is less to do with a ban but more with the mechanism of enforcement. I have a choice at the store. I can choose to receive paper or plastic bags or use my own “reusable” bag. I get to decide. The proposed ban removes that choice. Supporters shared that meetings, booths and displays have been used at events to encourage the use of reusable bags; however, there was little participation. Since we have not acted quickly enough, a ban would compel us to be aware. The message is getting out.

How many people used reusable bags five years ago? None. Now I see reusable bags in stores, at schools and the numbers seem to be growing. My household did not have reusable bags then, but now we use them regularly. However since Falmouth is not using reusable bags enough, we are being removed from the decision process.

That is how freedom falters. I would prefer encouraging the choice of reusable bags. If not, I hope a vote would be an option so I have a choice at the ballot box if not in the checkout line. Some refuse degrades slowly, very similar to how freedom is lost, a little at a time.

Craig Baranowski

  • Christopher White

    Let’s see if I get this right. No longer having ‘disposable’ plastic bags (an item that first appeared about 25 years ago) is an assault on freedom and liberty. The idea of a democratically-elected government responding the call by those many people in the community who believe … correctly … that these bags, while convenient, have become a major contributor to polluting our land and water, disrupting the lives of a wide array of birds and animals, and otherwise proving to do far more harm than good is somehow the slippery slope toward the loss of freedom. Forgive me if I find this sort of ‘analysis’ totally absurd.

    • Chew H Bird

      I conducted a personal and informal study of the so called single use bags. I believe they are less environmentally polluting than paper bags. The costs to produce, transport, and dispose of the plastic bags (raw materials to grave) is less than paper. Plastic bags do not have the cleanliness risks inherent to reusable bags (that are often used for other things like beach wear, school books, shoes, and whatever else we travel with).

      If a store does have an issue with contaminated products, reusable bags inhibit the actual resolution because cross contamination can occur inside of the store if the reusable bag has been compromised and that contamination could travel to multiple stores.

      This is a solution that solves no problems. Heck, in Brunswick we are required to purchase town authorized plastic bags at additional (and high priced) fees (double taxation), if we want to utilize the taxpayer financed garbage service.

      Why should towns require plastic bags for one use and ban them for another?

      If the issue is loose bags being difficult to contain, that is a problem for the contractors and waste disposal firms to address. There is no logical reason to ban plastic bags.

      • Christopher White

        Haven’t most of us done our own ‘personal and informal studies of the so called single use bags’? You have your opinions and beliefs based on whatever set of conditions or aspects of the issue you’ve decided are important enough to factor in and what weight to give them … not to mention what sort of sources you looked to for data.

        I freely grant the cost per unit for paper bags is roughly triple that of ‘disposable’ plastic.

        Where you lose me is what you think happens to those bags when they hit the ‘grave’. Where do you think that ‘grave’ is and what further costs will we, collectively, pay for their ‘perpetual care’?

        Based on my own ‘personal and informal study’, this is where I believe the real problem exists. Burn them, we get toxic outputs, which need to be extracted (at a cost) or else they enter the air (at a cost). Only a tiny fraction of them get to an incinerator. Most end up adding to the ever growing mega-tonnage of inert plastics cluttering our planet. While inert, they are still producing a variety of well-documented environmental harms, from dead birds and fish to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

        • Chew H Bird

          The bags do break down given enough time. How about using the same plastic composition our towns are now requiring to dispose of our regular garbage? Certainly there must be problems with people being forced to purchase plastic garbage bags to use town disposal services?

          • Christopher White

            You say these plastic bags ‘break down’ … how and into what are the next questions to ask.
            They only ‘break down’ through exposure to sunlight. Absent being in the sun, not buried in landfills, they won’t ever ‘break down’. Researchers from Japan have found that plastic can degrade in as little as a year in warm ocean water. This sounds good until you deal with the fact that those small bits of plastic ‘break down’ into toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer. These end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where humans are most likely to come into direct contact with the toxins. A great way to help Maine’s fishing industry, wouldn’t you say? Not to mention all the ‘little beards’ women may grow, as The Man in the Blaine House so elegantly put it.

          • Chew H Bird

            So, excusing my lack of scientific background, are towns requiring we use plastic bags for garbage pickup if they are so harmful to the environment? Brunswick’s required plastic bags are much thicker than the single use bags…

          • Christopher White

            Short answer? Yes. Towns require the use of plastic bags, which ultimately become part of the unfortunate plastic waste stream and which will eventually break down and release toxins into our environment.

          • Chew H Bird

            So the expensive plastic garbage bags required by the town are ok to use, but the “free” plastic bags provided by stores for convenience are not? However, the damage to the environment by either bag, based of course on size and materials, is roughly the same?

            This makes no sense at all, especially when people who re-use the single use bags will simply purchase plastic bags, probably at increased costs and thickness (for convenience sake), that will then end up being disposed in the same manner as the “free” bags.

          • Christopher White

            On the one hand, if the long term environmental harm caused by plastics were fully recognized, we should ban their use entirely. On the other hand, the logic behind the use of specific plastic bags for waste is designed to encourage residents to be far more conscious of what they throw ‘away’ … wherever ‘away’ is supposed to be, besides out of sight and mind. We use such bags in Windham and are careful to separate out recyclables as well as maintaining a robust compost heap. As a result our 3 adult household often takes two weeks to fill one bag with ‘garbage’.

  • yathink2011

    The Town of Falmouth needs more people that think like Mr. Baranowski. His point wasn’t that the bags were good or bad, but rather that Residents should get to decide. My point is, while they are at it, why don’t they ban potato chip bags? How about the plastic rings that go around soda and beer cans? There are many better choices of things to ban that would accomplish more than just letting people feel good.

  • Scott Harriman

    Mr. Baranowski is still free to use as many plastic grocery bags as he likes — he just won’t get them at no cost.

  • Queenie42

    Humans seem to be one of the very few animals who sh*t where they eat. We are polluting our environment and the environment we share with other species. I would like a clean world for those who come after us. Highly unlikely. If, however, we as consumers are forced to pay for plastic bags, we will use less of them. A step in the right direction.