Plastic pollution and its effects on the environment is one of the most pressing issues we face. With that being said, I am so excited by the news of Vermont’s new single-use plastic ban. However, while reading all of these articles, I saw that many people are upset by the cost of our alternatives: paper and cloth bags. Paper bags will be available in stores for 10 cents, and cloth bags can be bought in a range of qualities for a range of prices.
Here is some background that can help us all make the most of this good policy.
The fee on paper bags has been put in place to incentivize people to remember their reusable cloth bags. In several Vermont news articles, I saw readers who commented rightly to point out that paper bags take more energy to produce and transport, but simultaneously do not mention the fact that paper bags do not have the same lasting environmental impact on our ecosystems as the plastic bags do, as they do not take centuries to decompose.
A supply of sustainably sourced, durable cloth bags for a household of average size can be sourced for roughly the same price as splurging on a lunch date and if cared for properly, can last many years. When used to their full life potential, the cloth bags will eventually make up for and surpass the amount of energy required to produce them. Unlike the unsustainable alternatives, cloth bags can even be mended with little effort to extend their life cycle.
For those who are unable to afford some new cloth bags, there are alternatives being planned such as bag shares and local workshops in which people can make their own bags with upcycled materials such as old t-shirts. Globally, only 18% of plastic is recycled, according to the 2018 National Geographic issue entitled “Planet or Plastic.”
In asking Vermont consumers to be responsible for our own reusable bags, we as a state set an example for the rest of our society to express that we do not need to embrace the throw-away culture any longer, and that our love of convenience comes at too high a cost to support in every facet of our lives. As a Charlestown, N.H. native, and a second year student at Bennington College here in Vermont, I am so proud to be part of a community that is leading this change across our country.