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Boston/My Turn: Too toxic a convenience

We are all part of a living eco-system upon which we depend for our lives. Would you like to live in a town where Nature — the soil, water, air, and all living creatures — had its own Bill of Rights, a kind of invisible fence around Greenfield that said to big polluters, “Keep Out!”?

I sure would.

“Too bad,” the polluters say, “We’ve got the law on our side. We bought it with our fantastic lobbying and campaign finance.” So we put pesticides on our crops, and toxic chemicals on our lawns, and it all washes into our water supply.

We fill up landfills with plastic everything until they are so full we start burning our trash. That’s what Greenfield does. Now our air is contaminated with toxic fumes. One 20-something recently remarked that they are inheriting “spoiled left-overs” for an environment.

We can do better than that.

It’s time to call a halt to this unnecessary pollution! New York City just banned Styrofoam. Cities, states and whole countries (see the list at the bottom of this column) have now banned single-use plastic bags (and some bottles as well) because there is no place it makes sense to put them. There is no waste in natural systems. Anything we throw into it comes back to us in some form.

When we burn plastic bags — as we do in our present garbage disposal system — toxic fumes fill our air, threatening our health and fertility (endocrine disrupters are in the plastic residue.) Great Barrington recently passed such a ban on plastic bags with 90 percent approval from its citizens. It’s time for Greenfield to join this movement to be responsible members of this living organism we inhabit.

I am part of a group of concerned citizens in Greenfield who are giving leadership to this endeavor. Single-use plastic bags are not necessary; they are simply convenient.

What shoppers need is not a plastic bag, but some means of transporting purchases to their home. Acting responsibly, we shoppers can meet this need with cloth re-useable bags or paper bags, the latter of which has a small charge in most towns with bans in order to jog our memory when we forget our own bag or cover any additional cost to the merchant for providing paper instead of plastic.

We are also looking into a local distributor of biodegradable bags made of cornstarch, which may cost as little as 1.3 cents per bag — a small price to pay for protecting ourselves, future generations, and all the other living beings in our environment.

Our democracy working group has canvassed the merchants of Federal and Main streets and collected 40 signatures in support of this ban. Even though our local chain stores such as Big Y, Stop & Shop and CVS would not sign our petition, they all have stores in the towns in Massachusetts and California that have passed ordinances such as we are proposing. So these stores already have the means and experience to provide their customers with alternative bags.

If you would like to help forward this effort, please attend the Appointments and Ordinance committee meeting on Monday, April 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the 114 Main St. town office to share your concerns and encourage the committee to recommend this ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags from Greenfield stores to the full Town Council for a vote April 16.

Please join us in making Greenfield a leader in this simple, but important, move away from unnecessary pollution toward a cleaner environment for all beings.

■ ■ ■

These countries have banned plastic bags: India, China, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Australia, Somalia, Botswana, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Japan, Turkey, Zanzibar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Belgium, South Korea, Sweden, Bhutan, Malta, Singapore, Malaysia. Hawaii has eliminated plastic bags as have many U.S. cities: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland in California, Corvallis, Eugene, Portland, in Oregon, Corpus Christie in Texas, Seattle and Shoreline in Washington as well as Great Barrington, Nantucket, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Brookline in Massachusetts.

Sandra Boston is a Greenfield resident

Sandra writes an interesting letter. I ask why plastic bags ever came into being? Styrofoam and plastic bags came from environmental concerned people. San Francisco was the first place that made plastic bags mandatory. At that time they wanted to get rid of paper bags to save the trees. Then they and the people they elected made sure the navy and all ships in general dumped the trash from the ships in plastic bags which float for a long time. It seems with everything they do they didn't think of the long term consequences. I won't say it takes as long as radiation to become safe but almost as long to decompose. That is why everything should be done in small steps. Remember when soda six packs were in plastic rings? they ended up in the ocean and killing sea life (dolphins among them). Maybe the best way to stop the destruction is to stop takeout and make burgers and all fast food fresh and then no paper would be needed to wrap any food. If you wanted milk you could milk your own cow, meat butcher your own animal. No plastic-cardboard carton and no Styrofoam and plastic to wrap the meat. Lets not forget the one cup coffee drinkers. Every cup brewed produces more plastic trash. How far should we take this? Everything that is done for convenience just might make trash we can do without. Where should we stop? I think we can say the residents of Greenfield are big polluters, also. They just might not have known it. Now maybe they do.

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