The cost of plastic bags

1) Plastic bags pollute our city. Lightweight and easily airborne, they tumble into the Animas, get caught in trees and litter our trails.

2) Plastic degrades into tiny particles that contaminate our food chain, water and soil, exposing humans to toxins absorbed by the plastic and a host of other compounds that are dangerous to our health.

3) Plastic bags are costly. Our city has to pay to clean up litter from parks, trees, storm drains, etc. and plastic bags caught in drainage systems can cause flash flooding. We pay for these costs in the form of increased taxes and emergency cleanup funds.

4) Plastic bag manufacturing requires nonrenewable fossil fuels – oil or a natural gas byproduct – and emits greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, which is not sustainable. 

Plastic bags are what economists call an externality: an expense that’s paid for by society rather than the person who’s responsible for it. Luckily, there are ways we can ensure that at least some of these external costs are paid by whoever actually uses the bags. The idea isn’t to punish people for using plastic bags; it’s to create an incentive for every person to pay their fair share. 

As the state deliberates HB21-1162, I call on our new and existing City Council members to address this low-hanging fruit. We the citizens voted for environmental expertise, entrepreneurial savvy and the ability to get things done. Now let’s get this done.

– Alex Whittow, Durango