By JEANINE BEHR GETZ
You may be expecting to hear the punch line to a funny one liner, sorry to disappoint you there, but what did happen was…they had a conversation that started with work and family then turned to golf and then took a surprising right turn to…
Single use PLASTIC bags!
Did you know the environmental damage done by the millions of tons of plastic floating around the world’s oceans costs $13 billion a year?
Plastic pollution is a global problem that humans alone have caused.
Take a moment, just look around you, is there a plastic bottle within reach? Maybe a plastic bag trapped in a tree out of your office window? Or maybe you just finished wrestling with a pair of scissors trying to release a product from its plastic packaging? Or perhaps you are reading this while sipping a Frappuccino from a plastic straw stuck in a plastic lid attached to a plastic cup?
YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE!
Are you freaked out, overwhelmed, feeling hopeless, defeated, or embarrassed yet? Well don’t be!
To quote Jane Goodall, “There is still a lot left worth fighting for.”
Meet Meline Dickson. She agrees with Jane and with the many cities, states and countries around the world in recognizing that single use plastic pollutes, that it is one of the greatest growing dangers to our oceans, environment, fossil fuel dependency, social justice equality and human health, and she is paving the way for healthy change right here in Greenwich, CT. Starting with single use plastic bags!
FCL is grateful to David Dickson for being one of the husbands spreading the word about single use plastic bags and to Meline for sharing with our readers her passion and plans to make a difference.
FCL: What inspired you to take on plastic bags (or single use bags) in Greenwich, CT?
Meline: Greenwich Garden Club’s Conservation chair, Kim Gregory announced a viewing of the film “Bag It,” at the Audubon, Greenwich in January. The movie takes a clever and lighthearted approach to dealing with ubiquitous plastic bags, how they end up in trees, in streams, clogging sewer drains and in our waterways harming marine life and more.
FCL: What motivated you to take action?
Meline: I love living in this area, I feel truly lucky to live near the coast and I didn’t fully realize the lasting and damaging results of my careless single use bag behavior. So I thought, if I didn’t realize this impact, maybe others don’t either. This problem seems like one in which we, as a town, can solve by raising awareness and modifying our behavior and we can have an important impact on our environment and our health.
FCL: Why is single use plastic (or all bags) a problem?
Meline: The lasting damage from a disposable plastic bag, that’s used on average for only 12 minutes before being discarded, is huge. Plastic bags will remain in the environment for hundreds of years, they destroy wild life that mistake them for food, clog storm drains and fill landfills. These bags are a major source of litter and pollution in our environment. They do not biodegrade and are very difficult to recycle.
FCL: Why should our audience care?
Meline: There is a taxpayer cost to them and their health and the environment. As a reference, the New York City Sanitation Department collects more than 1700 tons of single-use-carry-out bags every week, and has to spend $12.5 million a year to dispose of them. Plastics don’t biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in Long Island Sound and the ocean, absorb toxins and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.
FCL: Has there been city, town, or state bag action that inspires you? Fuels you forward?
Meline: There are a number of cities around the US and countries around the world that have plastic bag bans, and locally, I know it is hard to believe, but Westport is the ONLY city in Connecticut with a ban in place. The “Retail Checkout Bags Ordinance’s,” multi purpose intent to improve the environment, promote reusable bags and ban plastic retail checkout bags was approved at a RTM Meeting in September of 2008 and became operative in March of 2009. The six-month interim allowed retail stores to use their inventory of plastic checkout bags.
New Canaan’s Conservation Commission has been considering a town wide plastic bag ban for over a year and it’s gathering momentum.
Rye and Mamaroneck across the border in New York passed similar ordinances in 2012.
FCL: Are single use bans better than fees?
Meline: Depends on whom you are speaking with. An estimated 950-million single-use plastic/paper bags are handed out to shoppers in Connecticut every year. At our State level right now there’s a bill pending in Hartford that would require a nickel tax on non-reusable bags at the market and other retailers throughout Connecticut. It’s estimated the nickel fee could result in $20 million dollars in new state revenue that could be dedicated for environmental programs. This proposal is aimed at cutting down the litter and raising money.
FCL: What has your group been working on? What is your progress?
Meline: We’ve met with Sally Davies and the GRAB board and Denise Savageau, our Greenwich Conservation Director on separate occasions about enlisting our Conservation Commission, our Chamber of Commerce, our First Selectman, Peter Tesei and the RTM to garner support and guidance on how best to create and incorporate a bag ordinance into our town. We have enthusiastic support from GRAB and Denise.
Our next step is to gather local signatures for a petition on Earth Day, April 22nd to convey to the Conservation Commission that there is tremendous support in town for such an ordinance.
FCL: Who usually opposes plastic bag bans/fees? Why?
Meline: Retail, plastic and grocery industry groups in Connecticut have in the past repeatedly opposed legislation to ban or tax plastic and paper shopping bags, arguing that those bags can be and often are recycled already. But this is not true, another stat, 300,000,000 tons of plastic is produced globally each year only 10 per cent of that is recycled. Another reason retailers and grocery groups don’t like plastic bag bans is that paper bags costs them more to purchase and plastic industry groups says bans cost jobs which is also not the case.
FCL: What can our audience do to help?
Meline: Five ways
- Start using reusable bags for all of you purchases.
- Come sign our petition on April 22, 2017 at the Arch Street Earth Day Fair.
- Talk to your family and friends about why it’s important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.
- Let our state legislators know you feel strongly about this issue by emailing them — State Senator Scott Frantz and State Representatives Livvy Floren, Fred Camillo and Mike Bocchino.
- Email me if you want to get involved: email@example.com
FCL: What are three plastic bag or single use bag facts our audience may not already know?
- Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. 14 plastic bags = the gas used to drive 1 mile
- According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. That means that the average family only recycles 15 bags a year; the rest ends up in landfills as litter.
- Target gives away enough plastic bags a year to wrap around the Earth 7 times.
FCL: Thank you Meline for caring for our town and taking on this task. Thank you to spouses everywhere for listening and spreading the word to “remember your bag!”
SMALL CHANGES…BIG IMPACT!
FCL will stop by Arch Street to sign your petition on April 22nd
Jeanine Behr Getz, founder of Kids Think Big, is a habitat and children’s health advocate and provides eco product replacement solutions and eco consulting to consumers, brands, and business. She has been awarded The Solar One Sustainability Achievement Award, The Garden Club of America’s Conservation Award, was named a Connecticut Green Woman by CT GreenScene.