Change is hard; some change is harder and other change, not so much. Back in the day, the auto industry told mere humans that installing seat belts, airbags, car-seat friendly locking systems and electric batteries would drive the price of cars so high that “no one” could afford one.
Here we are in 2018 with seat belts, airbags, car-seat friendly locking systems and many electric batteries happily motoring down America’s highways and byways.
We were also told that if smoking was no longer allowed in bars, taverns, restaurants and pubs, no one would frequent them. In 2018, those establishments seem to be thriving with smoke-free interiors.
Last spring, one of our local Moab residents posted on a Facebook page that he and his wife had driven home from Grand Junction the day before. They were amazed and disheartened at the sea of plastic bags caught in the fence line and the brush on North U.S. Highway 191 near the Klondike Landfill.
Many other residents commented that it was indeed an eyesore, and that something should be done to combat the ever-increasing mass of plastic that greets our visitors that arrive from the north end of town, along with all of us who call this beautiful valley home.
Citizens were asking for a call to action six months ago. The Moab City Council, during the Aug. 14 regular meeting, had a discussion about possibly banning the use of single-use plastic bags in the city limits.
I am a city council member, and prior to our discussion we received a number of email communications urging us to enact such a ban. As is well understood, not all citizens communicate directly with the council or through email.
Single-use plastic bags have become a boon and a bane. In the U.S. alone, residents use 380 billion single-use bags per year for an average of 12 minutes each. They are made from fossil fuels and it takes 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture those 380 billion bags.
There are plenty of people who reuse those bags for legitimate uses, from picking up after their pets, to transporting wet drippy swimsuits, wrapping items to place in freezers and disposing of wet trash. We can do better, though.
The bags litter our highways, our trails and paths, waterways. In addition, they foul streams and lakes and even irrigation systems. Marine animals mistake them for food and ingest them, often dying because of the ingested plastic. Birds and small mammals can get caught and trapped in the bags and injured or killed.
Even as the bags decompose, small reptiles, amphibians and fish mistake them for food and eat them. They then make their way into the human food chain by contaminating fisheries.
I would hope that as a community we could find better ways to convey our purchased items from the retail businesses we frequent to our homes. Reusable bags are available at most retailers these days for not much money. If money is an object, there are organizations that routinely have them printed for promotions and give them away.
I would encourage all of us to do better; it takes just a minute to grab those bags off the seat of your car or from the hook in the hallway. If you’re handy with a sewing machine it takes about 15 or 20 minutes and some scrap fabric to whip one up, and they are durable and washable.
Washington, D.C., enacted a ban on plastic bags in 2009. The residents of our nation’s capital were using 82.5 million bags per month. Since enacting the ban, that number has been reduced to 3 million per month, an 85-percent decrease. Let’s at least try to match their success. If Moab and the surrounding area could reduce our plastic bag use by 85 percent, it would make a big difference in what we see coming home and what our visitors see as they approach our town and community.