LETTER: Don’t just ban plastic bags; replace them

Start lobbing the spitballs; I disagree with the proposed ban on single-use plastic bags in Qualicum Beach and Parksville. You can take those “permanent” tote bags out of the equation, too: studies show that unless those purchased bags are washed out, they can be unsanitary.

Having said that, I’ve seen photos of the floating plastic “islands” in the oceans of the world. Located halfway between Hawaii and California, the largest island is more than 600,000 square miles. Estimated to contain 1.8 trillion pieces of trash, it’s also estimated to weigh at least 79,000 tons.

I’ve read about the recycling problems with point-of-sale plastic bags. When paper bags were the target 40 years ago, the rallying cry was, “How many trees …?” Both camps are right, and both camps are wrong. This is by no means a simple issue.

Offering point-of-purchase, single-use plastic bags for a fee is hypocritical, doing little for the environment. The use of plastic wraps and plastic waste bags is widespread. Offering fee-based bags is well-intentioned but irksome and silly.

Plastic can be recycled into different materials, but the collection system needs to be easy and convenient — ideally at point-of-sale or through the standard recycling pick-up, rather than at a distant location.

It’s thought that only one per cent of plastic bags are recycled. Pro-plastic consumers argue they reuse point-of-sale plastic bags as garbage bags. But then what? The bags end up in landfills, often taking literally hundreds of years to decompose.

The solution? I believe retailers worldwide have an obligation to offer bioplastic bags made of cornstarch and other plant-based materials. As these bags decompose, they vent CO2, with a net environmental effect near zero.

Nicole Parton

Qualicum Beach

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