Commentary: Going shopping? Which bag is the greenest tote?

Source: Herald Editorial Board, Herald Net, October 1, 2019

Shoppers in Everett are no longer getting single-use plastic bags to haul home their groceries; instead they’ll have the option of using their own reusable bags or pay a five-cent fee for a paper bag or a thicker plastic bag. The bag ban began Monday.

The Everett City Council passed the new ordinance in December, to encourage people to bring their own bags to stores for purchases and reduce the amount of plastic that befouls our waters, billows in trees and lingers in landfills.

Everett joins a list of about 20 other cities and jurisdictions in the state that have passed similar bans on the single-use bags that have been commonplace in grocery and other retail stores for about 30 to 40 years. Edmonds was the first city in the county to pass a similar bag ban, and has been joined by Everett, Mukilteo, Shoreline and Quil-Ceda Village in Tulalip. The state Legislature also considered a statewide ban this year, with the bill passing in the Senate, before it ran up against the session’s deadline in the House.

As handy as the bags are for carrying things — with some then lining kitchen trash bins and picking up after pets — the bags are among the most visibile targets for efforts to reduce plastic pollution. And with good reason.

A 2014 report by Scientific American found that the full range of plastic pollution — because it isn’t biodegradable but breaks down into tiny microplastics that contain and absorb toxic chemicals — are ingested by birds and marine life. A European Commission study cited by the magazine, found that 90 percent of North Sea birds had plastics in their stomachs. Another report blamed the ingestion of plastics for tens of thousands of deaths of birds and marine wildlife worldwide.

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