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Orange couple recycle to stop plastic bag ban

  • Victor MacDonald and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, have set up a plastic bag recycling station at the Orange Transfer Station on Jones Street. They want people to recycle, not ban, plastic bags. —Recorder Staff/David McLellan

  • Victor MacDonald and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, have set up a plastic bag recycling station at the Orange Transfer Station on Jones Street. They want people to recycle, not ban, plastic bags. —Recorder Staff/David McLellan



Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

ORANGE — An inconvenience, a burden on the poor, unfair to business owners and even an act that encourages shoplifting is how one Orange couple is describing the town’s proposed plastic bag ban.

But they aren’t just shaking their fists at the thought of the ban.

Victor MacDonald, 61, and his wife, Laurie, 58, have been recycling thousands of plastic bags at the Orange Transfer Station in an effort to defeat the proposed ban that is on the warrant at the June 18 annual Town Meeting.

By recycling around 600 bags a week for the last six weeks, the MacDonalds say they have proved the ban is unnecessary, and they’ve made flyers to hand out at the Town Meeting.

“We want to give recycling (plastic bags) a chance in Orange. We haven’t even really tried it yet,” said Victor MacDonald, proudly patting the white barrel he’s set up at the Transfer Station.

“We’re one of the few municipalities that has a dump. We should use it,” he added. “Let’s be positive and teach people to recycle and not to litter.”

The proposed ban would eliminate “thin-film single-use plastic bags” at all retail and grocery stores in Orange, with exemptions for “bags used to contain dry cleaning, newspaper, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and other similar merchandise, typically without handles.”

If passed, businesses would be fined $25 for their second offense and $50 for each subsequent offense for not following the ban, which was conceived via a petition by 12 residents and has received some support from Selectboard Chairman Ryan Mailloux, who called the idea “great.”

Local businesses like Trail Head Outfitters support the ban and have already stopped using plastic bags for environmental reasons. The proposal states the ban’s intention to be to reduce pollution and prevent animals from being harmed by “ingestion and entanglement.”

The MacDonalds believe the ban was proposed with good intentions, but that it would do more harm than good.

Victor MacDonald is a lifelong handyman — a “super handyman,” as he calls it — and frequently recycled cardboard and plastic left over from his various odd jobs. In his experience, things termed “single-use” can often be used again, he said.

For example, the bags the MacDonalds are collecting at the Transfer Station are brought to the local Walmart, which accepts them for free, then taken by truck to a factory that turns them into new, fresh bags.

“These aren’t going to a landfill. They aren’t going to choke any animals,” Laurie MacDonald said. “They’re taken to a factory and remade. The truck has to go back to the factory anyway.”

One of the MacDonald’s main problems with the ban is, they say, it is harmful to homeless people and poor people, who rely on the “durable” plastic bags.

“Ordinary people will be hurt,” Laurie MacDonald said. “It’s not the rich that mind getting reusable bags and bringing them to the store every time.”

“People use the plastic bags for everything, kitten litter even,” Victor MacDonald added. “And the paper bags just rip, they aren’t durable enough to hold heavy groceries. It will be bad for businesses.”

If the plastic bag ban passes, the MacDonalds say they probably will not continue the recycling program. If the ban gets voted down, however, they will keep it going. They are hopeful that the success they’ve had in the first six weeks will convince people to recycle, rather than pass a “drastic” ban.

“People might come (to the Town Meeting) with their minds made up, but we hope that’s not the case,” Victor MacDonald said. “Plastic bags raise our standard of living. The poor of today live better than kings did hundreds of years ago, and plastic bags are a part of that.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.