Letter to the editor: Why Parsippany May Ban Plastic Bags

parsippany focusDear Editor:

Do you care about your kids? Your grandkids? Your health? Clean water? The Jersey Shore? Safe food? Human rights? Your backyard? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you should support a ban on plastic bags in Parsippany.

The detrimental effects of plastic bags are both local and global. Here in Parsippany, plastic bags clog our sewers and drainage systems, increasing the risk of flooding, and collect rainwater creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They litter our backyards, neighborhoods, and roadways, decreasing property values, undermining the beauty of where we live and play, and reinforcing our state’s reputation as “Dirty Jersey”. They cost our town thousands each year in equipment malfunctions when they get caught in our recycling facilities machines.

But the plastic problem goes much deeper than that. When littered or dumped in landfill the chemicals from plastic bags leach into soil and groundwater, contaminating our drinking water and the food grown on our agricultural land. When burned in an incinerator, plastic bags release toxic gases into the air we breathe, especially harming the neighborhoods near incineration plants like Newark. Even when plastic bags are “properly” disposed, they easily blow out of trash cans, off of trucks, and off of landfills making their way into waterways, which eventually lead to our reservoirs or the ocean. More and more reports of marine animals dying from plastic bag ingestion are emerging, which often look like prey such as jellyfish.

Despite all these concerns, many of the problems with plastic bags occur before a bag is even made. Plastic bags are made from petroleum byproduct, which means they require oil or natural gas. These resources are obtained through drilling (onshore or offshore) or fracking, both domestically and abroad. Large petroleum companies take land from indigenous peoples—without prior and informed consent—by force. Oil companies Chevron and Texaco for instance who sought to drill in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest killed the entire Tetetes and Sansahuari nation tribes to profit from their land. The pipelines required to transport the oil also cause deforestation and other land grabs from citizens and indigenous peoples, not to mention their tendency to leak oil and methane both onshore and offshore. With 12 fracking expansion projects already in negotiation in New Jersey, banning plastic bags would give fuel tycoons one less revenue stream from destroying our land.

Finally, the manufacture and transport of plastic bags emit carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change. Climate change intensifies hurricanes (think Hurricane Sandy), jeopardizing where we work, live, and play. It also threatens biodiversity by shifting or eliminating viable habitat for millions of species, from the flowers planted in your backyard to the bees we depend on to pollinate the food we feed our families with.

The good news is that switching from disposable to reusable bags is an easy change that has a huge impact. Although cotton canvas bags are not recommended (cotton requires a lot of water and pesticides to produce), reusable non-woven polypropylene bags are lightweight, washable, durable, and reusable. The Department of Sanitation in New York City gives out these bags for free—including a drawstring and carabiner to wrap them small enough to fit in a purse or on a keychain.

A plastic bag is not worth the lives, health, and well-being of others. This luxury for us comes at the cost of billions, from our grandkids, to our neighbors, to the Sansahuari nation, to the Cuvier beaked whale thousands of miles away.

Please come to the Parsippany-Troy Hills Municipal Building on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:00 p.m. to support the ordinance for a plastic bag ban in Parsippany.

Allie Molinaro