Outrage over plastic bag ban was strong, fascinating

Sept. 9, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

Before I left on a week’s vacation, I covered a meeting of the Ordinance Committee of the Chicopee City Council, which was considering recommending the whole council approve a study of the possibility of eliminating plastic shopping bags from the city as well as any use of Styrofoam.

Other communities have implemented similar measures in an effort to decrease plastic from the waste stream. Chicopee is facing the closure of the landfill it uses – but does not own – and is ramping up an increased effort to recycle and decrease the amount of trash that must be disposed.

What fascinated me was the reaction from most of the people who attended the hearing. They adamantly objected to the idea they would not be receiving the plastic bags from retailers as they presently do.

One woman simply, but loudly said, “We need those plastic bags.”

Another resident accused the councilors of creating the issue by allowing other communities to use “our” landfill. Chicopee does not own the landfill it uses. A private company owns it.

It was clear that such a move was seen as alarming to many people, a challenge to how they presently live. Frankly I think the idea of how a community the size of Chicopee is going to handle their trash should be more alarming.

Now I understand the position retailers presented who testified stating that paper bags would cost more and that Styrofoam is a necessary product to use when selling meat.

What I couldn’t understand was much of the protest against such a ban of plastic bags was about the removal and disposal of dog poop. Now, my wife and I pick up after Lucky the Wonder Bichon and our preferred method is with plastic bags from retailers.

Sometimes, we try to use reusable bags from our groceries, but when these bags are in short supply our friends without dogs will actually give them to us.

If the city of Springfield implemented such a ban I think the combination of tissues or paper towels and a paper bag could suffice.  There is no need for the outage and concern I saw in Chicopee that night.

Considering that Cambridge put such a ban in place and retailers there now use a plastic bag that is designed to deteriorate in a matter of 224 days, there is technology in place that would satisfy people who must have their plastic bags.

Styrofoam is a different matter. Many restaurants already use alternatives to it and the problem is satisfying healthy meat packaging demands with that of the environment. I think exceptions could be made for food handling.

Frankly, I think there should be a statewide ban against conventional plastic bags. We have alternatives and we must continue to address our waste challenges.

Chicopee’s problem is our problem, as all of us must face the issue of reducing the waste stream.

The Commonwealth started a ban in 2014 on organic material in the waste stream and mandated that any business that creates a ton or more of food waste a week must dispose of it outside of the typical garbage pick-up.

Don’t be surprised if all of us must deal with our organic waste as well. That will mean municipalities will have to establish composting systems and residents will have to separate their trash in another manner.

I just picked up a book outlining how to establish a composting system so I’ll be ahead of the game and create a way to build up my soil for our backyard garden.

If people are hating the idea of eliminating conventional plastic bags, what would they say if they have to put all of their food scraps, apple cores, banana peels and more in a separate bin for pick-up? I predict more angst.

Yup, I made a mistake

Several weeks ago I wrote a story for our Thursday edition about an exceptional young woman who served an internship in Israel this summer and I misidentified the name of a United States senator.

A reader wrote me, “Wow! I am in shock! ‘Patrick Markey???’ I simply cannot believe that you don't know the correct given name for Senator Edward Markey!!! How embarrassing! I would think that a newspaper editor would at least know the names of the senators from Massachusetts (and it's not like he’s a newbie, either!)”

Here was my response, “Yes I made a mistake for which I have apologized to the subject of the story and fixed it on-line. I’m afraid I’m a human being who occasionally does indeed commit an error. If you read our paper regularly you realize my staff and I pride ourselves in getting our facts correct and we do a good job of that. When we do make a mistake we acknowledge it and correct it.”

So yes, I do know that Sen. Markey’s first name is Edward.

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