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Cut Down On Plastic Bag Usage

EDITOR, The Tribune

WHILE everyone is concerned with the political fervour now consuming our nation, I wish to change strides and mention something on the environmental front (although it does in some way connect to recent and past politics – vis a vis the New Providence “landfill” debacle).

It is not a new concept, but one that is worth sharing in hopes that more Bahamians will join in and take this small step to help protect our future.

I would like to address the use of plastic bags in our daily lives. There is almost not a day that goes by for most of us when we do not come in contact with a plastic bag to tote something or other. The food store bags are probably the most prevalent and widely used. Many people are now using “green” bags when out grocery shopping. This is to be commended.

By the designation of “green” bags, I am referring to a bag usually made of a cloth fibre matrix that can be reused for countless travel and shopping trips as opposed to the one-time use of plastic throw-aways found in so many stores here that often end up wreaking havoc in our garbage dumps and out at sea causing devastating trauma to countless marine animals, especially fish and sea turtles.

It is quite typical for environmentally conscientious people nowadays to carry and reuse these “green” bags (mind you, they come in all colours, shapes and sizes) mostly however, for groceries only when going to Super Value, Solomon’s or similar food stores. We should all be reminded that these bags can and should be used in other retail stores as well. Please bring them for use in shops like Kelly’s, Lowes Pharmacy, CBS, The Sports Centre, Tops Hardware, your favourite shoe store, gardening and pet shops, other local retailers and even at lunch or dinner for your food take out orders. Imagine the plastic that could be saved if we all did this!

It might be worthwhile for the store owners/managers to enlighten the “bag” boys and girls (those young students that help us to bag and carry our purchases out to our vehicles) about the reasons for using “green” bags and the effects that plastics have on our environment. At the same time, they could be reminded that there is no need to use the plastics if the consumer provides their own recyclable bags. These “bag” boys and girls are helping out the shopper while gaining self-esteem and learning the value of a good work ethic.

I respect that. But, I often find myself having to explain why he/she should use the bags that I have provided as opposed to the never ending double plastic bags that are so often the custom in most, if not all of our food stores. While I admire the efforts of these young people that help out, by learning and embracing this environmentally conscientious concept they could serve to help advance this cause amongst us all.

Plastics bags are made from non-renewable fossil-fuel based materials (usually petroleum and natural gas products). Their production impacts the earth’s greenhouse effect, contributing to the global climate change that we are witnessing now.

The scientific community says that it takes between 20 to 1,000 years, others in this field say 500 to 1,000 years, to degrade our plastic products in the environment, particularly food store bags. Some are of the belief that they never fully decompose, only get broken down into smaller bits that remain on our lands and in our oceans forever. Of course, this is hard to determine definitively since plastic bags have only been in existence for the past 50 years or so. It is said, however, that “currently, there are approximately 46,000 to 1,000,000 plastic fragments floating within every square mile of the globe’s oceans. Scary!

There is an easy alternative that could serve to help us, our children, grands and beyond when such plastic use is so detrimental yet can be so readily replaced with more environmentally friendly products.

World Environment Day (WED), started by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1974, is celebrated on June 5 each year. According to Wikipedia, WED “has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. Its main aim is to “take positive environmental action, protect nature and the planet Earth”. Let’s do our part too! The use of “green” bags is but a small step in the scheme of things, but we have to start somewhere.

By reducing the plastics entering our environment today, we could be spared an indeterminable amount of hazardous pollution thereby decreasing the endless environmental concerns and health grief imposed upon all of us, for today and tomorrow.

The subject of the eternal styrofoam “To Go” boxes that are such an integral part of our way of life is an even scarier issue as far as global environmental and health concerns go. But that is a story for another day.

BARBARA THOMPSON

Nassau,

April 17, 2017

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