Jody Young: Time for Northampton to ban the plastic bag

Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — What do the American communities of Nantucket, Great Barrington, Brookline, Manchester by the Sea, Albany, Austin, Seattle, Honolulu, Maui, Berkeley, Long Beach, Malibu, San Francisco, and even Los Angeles have in common? They’ve all instituted bans on plastic bags.

This is an idea that is woefully overdue, and as a self-identifying “green” city, Northampton should be at the forefront on this issue.

We should be, but we’re not.

Here are a few reasons why we should care: Plastic bags and Styrofoam (polystyrene) are petroleum-based products. Yes, bags that are often used for mere minutes come from a finite resource made millions of years ago.

Plastic bags harm wildlife. Countless marine and land animals die every year by ingesting plastic bags. The list of animals threatened by plastic bags includes green turtles that nest on Nantucket and the whales and seals that feed off our coastline.

Plastic bags never biodegrade. They fragment into smaller and smaller bits called “microplastics.” Once washed into our oceans and lakes, they stay there forever and emit toxins into our soil and water.

And no, your dog’s poop does not help the bag biodegrade.

Lobbyists and groups like the American Chemistry Council represent the fossil fuel industry and pump millions of dollars into TV ads and political donations to prevent plastic bag bans. Their sole priority is protecting the profits of companies like Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil,and Chevron.

Northampton’s mayor and City Council members can take action today by introducing an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam cups and containers.

Let’s show the rest of the country that Northampton walks the walk and is dedicated to a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Jody Young lives in Northampton.