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Reusable bags' positives outweigh negatives | Letter
The letter titled “find another solution other than reusable bags” points out the potential drawbacks of reusable bags. While there is no perfect solution to our pervasive use of plastic bags, I believe reusable grocery bags’ positives far outweigh their negatives.
According to FoodSafety.gov, a food safety informational site, reusable cloth bags can be washed regularly in the washing machine with laundry detergent and thoroughly dried to eliminate harmful bacteria. To educate shoppers, signs could be posted in grocery stores to remind them to wash their reusable bags when needed. One key exception to the bag ban is that plastic bags would still be used for produce and meat products to prevent cross contamination.
It is true that some reusable bags have been found to contain lead. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a Seattle laboratory tested 71 different reusable bags, and 16 cheaply made bags contained high levels of lead. Richard Geller, the medical director for the California Poison Control system, notes in the article that you would have to eat the bag for there to potentially be a problem. The majority of bags do not contain lead. The public should be encouraged to buy them and avoid those that do contain lead. Ideally, those containing lead would be taken off the market or re-manufactured without lead.
The anti-reusable bag movement is led by groups such as the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), quoted by Ms. Lupton in a previous letter. The CCF, according to the Washington Post, is a non-profit advocacy group largely backed by the tobacco, liquor and food industries. The group was started by Richard Berman, a lobbyist and lawyer who also has a hand in other restaurant-supported groups. The group has received large donations from Philip Morris, the nation’s largest tobacco company, and has previously fought against banning indoor smoking. As the Washington Post article notes, they have disputed findings from the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies dedicated to protecting citizens’ rights and health. Other advocacy groups have asked for the IRS to revoke their 501(C)(3) status.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a British Environmental Agency study found that a non-woven polypropylene bag needs to be used only 11 times, compared to 131 for a cotton bag, to make a positive environmental impact. I would urge the city to encourage the right reusable bags to be used by consumers to reap the greatest environmental benefit. I like Ms. Lupton’s idea of using cardboard boxes in the way Costco does, although that may not be practical when buying fewer items in non-warehouse stores.
I do not believe shoppers would drive to other cities to avoid a five cent fee. The added fuel cost in doing so would far outweigh the minimal fee. The purpose of the fee is to discourage environmentally harmful bags, such as plastic and paper bags. We are already seeing in cities such as Seattle that consumers will form the habit of bringing their bags with them to the store. To encourage this habit in Kirkland shoppers, stores could post signs reminding consumers to bring their own bags.
In conclusion, I’d like to encourage the people of Kirkland to check the facts on the environmental impacts of reusable bags in place of plastic bags. Our number one concern is keeping Kirkland safe and healthy for generations to come. I truly believe that banning plastic bags at the checkout line is best for Kirkland’s future.
Ryan Boyle, Kirkland