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Should Plastic Bags Be Banned?

The War Over Plastic

Massachusetts State Senator Michael Brady is polling his constituents on whether or not they would support a ban on plastic bags. Brady’s district, Second Plymouth and Bristol, consists of Brockton, East Bridgwater, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Plympton, and Whitman. Such a measure would reduce plastic usage, aiding in environmental conservation efforts. However, some feel a ban on plastic bags would be intrusive and inconvenient.

Geographic representation of responses

One of the key arguments in favor of banning plastic bags is how damaging they can be to aquatic ecosystems. Many different species often confuse plastic for food, and ingestion of plastic can kill fish, turtles, and other marine life. Additionally, plastic bags are not biodegradable, but like everything else, they eventually decompose. That means plastic retains any harmful chemicals or other substances it comes into contact with, which can lead to the spread of such toxic materials once the plastic breaks down in the ocean. For more information on the damage plastic can cause to aquatic ecosystems, visit EcoWatch.

Opponents of plastic bag bans often take a more political argument, citing the infringement of civil liberties of citizens to use whatever bags they choose. Additionally, many point to the downfalls of paper bags, the most logical replacement for plastic. Paper bags are biodegradable, but they require trees to be cut down and cannot properly biodegrade in a landfill. For more information on both sides of the plastic debate, visit Scholastic.com.

Disclaimer: These results are not statistically significant due to the selective ability to respond and share. However, the quantity of responses and comments provide insight into overall sentiment, top concerns, and interest in this proposal.

Firmly In Favor

201 responses to Senator Brady’s question were recorded by Involved. Most of the responses came from Brockton residents, followed by Hanson, Hanover, and Whitman. Few responses were recorded between East Bridgewater, Halifax, and Plympton.

Out of 201 responses, 66.67% of respondents said they would support a ban on plastic bags.

This two-thirds majority dwarfs the 24.88% of respondents opposing the ban.

The final 8.46% of respondents indicated that they are unsure or feel that they do not have enough information.

Most supporters cited environmental reasons. “We need to preserve the environment and do our part to ensure a better future for everyone,” said one respondent. “Brockton needs to focus much more on sustainability efforts,” added another. “Given the amount of plastic in the seas and the food chain, there is really no choice.”

Survey response by visual chart

One opponent of a plastic bag ban voiced concerns over paper bags. “Where are the statistics and where is the evidentiary support that plastic bags are more detrimental to the environment than flimsy paper bags? Who is going to bear the cost for products damaged and destroyed by paper bags that break? Many people reuse even the disposable plastic bags for other purposes. Not so the flimsy paper bags.”

“Paper bags tear too easily and it is not practical to drag reusable bags around with you,” said another.

Another respondent opposed the question based on the civil liberties argument. “No I do not support the ban of plastic bags it should be personal option. Or let store owner's supple for free other options other than plastic bags.”

One respondent expressed that he was uncertain about a plastic bag ban. “I have mixed feelings about this issue. I don't feel you should put a total ban on plastic bags but cutting down on the usage is paramount. There are times when you are out and you realize you need something at Market Basket etc, and you want to stop and pick something up and you do not have reusable bags?”

A Shifting Tide

Elsewhere across Massachusetts, 90 communities have implemented legislation to reduce or ban plastic bags, per MassGreen.org. Many communities, such as Amherst, have enacted complete bans on plastic bags, but some have used other methods. Cambridge’s policy charges an additional fee if residents wish to use plastic bags. The legislation enacted by the city of Boston aims to simply “reduce” plastic bag usage.

Regardless of the different approaches being taken across Massachusetts, it’s clear that the state is moving increasingly towards reducing and eliminating plastic bag use. Senator Brady’s question and the increasing number of communities moving away from plastic indicates that the Massachusetts legislature may be moving towards a state-wide ban or reduction on plastic bags. Still, there is ardent opposition to such measures. For now, the debate over plastic bag regulation continues.

Caleb McDermott