Plastic or Paper or Reusable?

By Cindy M. Huss posted 10-07-2019 09:14


It is a common sight—plastic grocery bags blowing in the wind across the parking lot or field or lying crumbled at the side of the road. The controversy over plastic grocery bags and their impact on the environment has been around for years. Attempts to control their use initially occurred at the local level. In response, Michigan enacted 2016 PA 389, prohibiting the regulation of grocery bags by local government. But the wind may start blowing in a different direction because House Bill 4500 was introduced in April to repeal MCL 445.591–.593. This will allow local governments to regulate the use of plastic bags, including imposing a fee or charge on their use.

It has been reported that banning plastic grocery bags in favor of paper or reusable bags may hurt the environment. First, there is the impact of making paper or reusable bags. Also, people reuse plastic grocery bags for cleaning kitty litter and lining small garbage cans. One study showed that in communities where plastic grocery bags were banned, people purchased more small garbage bags.

But there is another environmental impact to consider. Animal advocates estimate that 100,000 marine animals die annually from plastic entanglement and ingestion. And those bags flying across a field or lying on the side of the road are dangerous to other animals. Horses and cows can die quite quickly after ingesting plastic grocery bags (apparently horses love to play with things that blow into their pasture). Camels and deer also die from eating plastic grocery bags. One theory is that they are attracted by the smell of food retained in the plastic.

I’ve used reusable bags for many years because they are sturdier and some stores give credit for bringing your own bags. (I even patch reusable bags because I’m a penny pincher.) Admittedly, I have sometimes forgotten them, but then I reuse the plastic grocery bags for kitty litter. But now I’m resolved to always bring my reusable bags. I’ll just put the kitty litter in the large garbage bag. I can’t live with Bambi’s or Flicka’s or Elsie’s death on my conscience.