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Environmentalist praises proposed plastic bag ban

Omar Fetouh/WBFO News

Your trips to the supermarket could be impacting the water you drink. That’s one reason why Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is proposing a ban on plastic bags at all stores in the county.Poloncarz’s plastic bag ban is one of ten initiatives he’s presenting at his State of the County address Thursday afternoon. The bags don’t biodegrade and are made out of natural gas that’s 80 times more potent than other forms of carbon. Former Sierra Club Chair Lynda Schneekloth said she appreciates Poloncarz bringing up the issue.

“Our part of the lake has got some of the highest plastic content of any of the Great Lakes because we’re a part of the more urbanized areas than on the eastern edge of this lake,” said Schneekloth. “This is the largest fresh body of surface water on this earth. We have a huge stewardship responsibility here. Keeping plastic out of the water seems like a really good idea.”

Schneekloth said we should think twice about what gets into the water supply we drink from. They make up to 25 percent of the litter in storm drains and often cause starvation among animals.

“The problem is that they don’t ever totally break down,” said Schneekloth. “That means that the world is filled and the oceans are currently filled right now with these little tiny pieces of plastic that we drink (and) wildlife eats. These little particles bond to toxins.”

Communities in at least 17 states have already banned plastic bags. Schneekloth said she agrees with Poloncarz’s beliefs that charging a fee for the bags won’t solve the problem and would only hurt the poor.

The trend of using plastic bags in supermarkets became popular in the 1970s. According to the EPA, the average American family takes home about 1,500 of them annually, but less than six percent are recycled.

“One of the problems that they have is changing people’s habits about how they think about shopping. That’s happened many times over human history,” said Schneekloth. “We didn’t use to have carts in grocery stores. We used to have to go and ask a clerk to get things for us in a grocery store. Lots of changes have happened.”

An environmental impact review will be needed before legislation to ban plastic bags can be passed.