Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bag It, Duluth! It’s time to quit single use plastic bags

 Above:Screenshot from Movie trailer for Bag it.

Below: Youtube trailer for Bag it.


By Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
For The Hillsider

I grew up in a small town and on the weekends my dad and I would drive to the “big city” to stock up on supplies for the upcoming week. We’d usually go the the grocery store, home improvement store, and the mall. Each one of these stores gave us plastic bags to carry our items home.

Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
Even as a kid I didn’t like to throw away things I thought could be reused, so I’d stuff all of the plastic bags into one big bag to reuse again later. We’d inevitably get way more plastic bags than we could ever reuse, and my dad would throw some away. Even though I didn’t like waste, I didn’t think anything about using the plastic bags from the stores. It’s what everyone I saw was doing, so it was normal.

These days I carry my own reusable bags when I go shopping. Not only do I feel better about reducing my waste, but I have also learned how harmful plastic bags are for the environment and our health.

The average amount of time a plastic bag is used is 12 minutes, but plastic bags remain in the environment for hundreds of years before they degrade, and they never really disappear. Instead the bags break down into tinier and tinier pieces, eventually becoming microplastics.

Microplastics are a pollution double-whammy. On top of contaminating our soil and water, they act like a sponge for toxic chemicals, absorbing toxins such as PCBs and DDT (chemicals linked to hormone disruption and cancer). Much of these microplastics end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans where birds, fish, and other marine animals mistake these toxic plastic pieces for food.

In a recent study from the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers that found nearly 22 million pounds of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes every year—about 70 thousand pounds of it into Lake Superior. Lorena Rios Mendoza, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, has been researching microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes and says she is surprised by how much she is finding in fish stomachs. Bad news, especially for those that enjoy fishing on Lake Superior.

What Can Each Person Do?

Start by learning more and meeting with others that want to help. To help address the impacts of single-use plastics, Bag it, Duluth, a group of citizens, community leaders, businesses, and organizations, is calling for legislation that would encourage reusable carry-out bags and environmentally preferable food to-go containers. As part of the Bag it, Duluth campaign, the League of Women Voters Duluth is sponsoring a free showing of the film “Bag It” at 7pm Thursday, February 16th at the Denfeld High School Lecture Hall. The film will bring greater insight to the impacts of plastics on our environment and ideas on reducing plastics in our community. 

For more information on Bag it, Duluth go to www.bagitduluth.org

(Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff lives in Lincoln Park, has a degree in environmental science, is a 5 Gyres Ambassador, leads Zumba classes and is interested in health and wellness. Full disclosure: She is also the daughter of The Hillsider editor Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff.)