Editorial: A plastic bag-free future, why Missouri should hop on board

Earlier this year, California became the first state to ban all single-use plastic bags. The goal of this law is to eliminate ocean and atmosphere pollution that is a direct result of plastic wastes. I think this is a law Missouri should consider adopting in order to help prevent as much plastic pollution as possible.

California’s law will go into effect on July 1, 2015, for large grocery store chains and on July 1, 2016, for smaller convenience stores, according to a CNN article. This law will eliminate the 13 million new plastic bags that pollute the environment every year in California. For the state, this could prove to be revolutionary for the environment.

“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said California Gov. Edmund Brown in a public statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Could Missouri be next? Many stores, such as Lucky’s Market on Providence, already give consumers an incentive to use recyclable bags instead of single-use plastic bags. The grocery store credits consumers 10 cents per bag they bring in for reuse. This is the only local store that has reusable bag incentives. Consumers often argue that it’s a hassle to bring in their own grocery bags, or that buying new bags made of recycled material for 10 cents each adds up too quickly. However, the pollution that accompanies plastic bags is much worse than the hassle of bringing in your own bags because of the environmental consequences these bags cause as pollution.

Each year, one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed from plastic in oceans, according to EcoWatch.com. This should be a major concern for all people across the entire country, not just for people along the coast. Rivers, which are located in every state, are major carriers of plastic pollution. They eventually deposit all their contents into the ocean, which always contains plastic bags. This makes Midwest pollution a major issue for oceans.

Nancy Browning of the Columbia Daily Tribune made a compelling argument against single-use plastic bags. She stated that Columbia is projected to go through an estimated 57 million single-use bags every year. That is more than four times the amount used in the entire state of California. All these plastic bags often end up in nearby rivers via wind, which eventually contributes to 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile floating on the ocean’s surface, according to EcoWatch.

This is a problem because plastic does not degrade at the same rate that it is ending up in the ocean. It takes around 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade, which means that every piece of plastic ever created still exists in some form. All this plastic causes BPA poisoning (BPA is a chemical used in plastic). Plastic can also be physically harmful to organisms when they get entangled in it or try to ingest the plastic.

It’s no secret that not everyone spends their time thinking about the effects of plastic bags on the ocean environment. Most citizens have what they consider more important day-to-day worries than thinking about a dolphin, hundreds of miles away, suffocating on a grocery bag. However, I believe because people are desensitized to the consequences of plastic pollution, it is important to promote a plastic bag ban in Missouri.

Some ways to promote this ban could include offering incentives, similar to the ones that Lucky’s features. Requiring cashiers to offer reusable bags to customers upon checkout and providing information on the effects of plastic pollution is another possible idea. Encouraging organizations to begin hosting plastic bag drives for recycling could also help reduce plastic bag pollution. Making reusable bags an option everywhere on MU campus and in Columbia is also another way to encourage consumers to cut down on their plastic bag usage. Senior elementary education major Jenna Germer agrees she would use reusable bags if they were more readily available on campus.

“If there was easier access to reusable bags, more people would be inclined to use them,” said Germer. “If more people use them, the less of a need there is for plastic bags and the more obligated people will be to get rid of them.”

Most importantly, people need to be reminded of the effects that throwing away a plastic grocery bag can have on our environment. These bags are not worth the lives of an endangered species or the safety of our atmosphere. However, in the busy world we live in, it is easy to forget the large impact a small bag can have on the world. Although it may not be the most convenient choice for consumers, I believe that the survival of our environment and oceanic species depends on us deciding that the value of irreplaceable aspects of our world outweigh our desire for convenience.

Sydney Weible

About the Author Sydney Weible

Hey everyone! My name is Sydney Weible. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but have lived most of my life in a small town called Bonner Springs, just outside of Lawrence, Kansas. However, because I decided I wanted to pursue journalism, I made the wonderful decision to attend the University of Missouri. I am now a science and ag journalism student. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I lived right next to one. A pumpkin patch actually. I worked there every October beginning my freshman year in high school and learned a lot about how much goes into producing a crop, even if it’s just pumpkins, and the economics of it.