Mayor challenges community to ‘boycott’ plastic bags during March
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza announced a challenge to the community of Stevens Point and surrounding areas to opt out of using plastic bags while shopping during the month of March.
“Let’s give it a try for a month, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. And if people can get used to it, maybe we can reduce the amount of plastic bags that wind up in trees, floating in the river or getting stuck in a landfill,” said Wiza.
Each year, the average U.S. adult citizen uses about 500 plastic bags. Plastic bags are cheap to produce, sturdy, plentiful, easy to carry and store that they have captured at least 80 percent of the grocery and convenience store market since they were introduced a quarter century ago, according to the Arlington, Va.-based American Plastics Council.
Many bags are reused at least once as book and lunch bags as kids head off to school, as trash can liners and to pick up pet waste. While beneficial practices, the end result is the same.
Plastic bags sit balled up and stuffed into the one that hangs from the pantry door. They line bathroom trash bins, carry clothes to the gym, clutter landfills, get stuck in trees and float in the breeze. Plastic bags also clog roadside drains, pollute the Wisconsin River and pose hazards for wildlife.
Most empty bags can be recycled. Plastic carryout bags are made from either high density poly ethylene (HDPE) or low density poly ethylene (LDPE) with resin identification code No. 2 and 4 respectively. The resin identification code is the number inside the triangle. Most plastic carryout bags in grocery stores are made from HDPE plastic and department stores are made from LDPE.
Portage County, however, does not have a program to recycle these bags for several reasons. It is suggested that you take them to a store that has a recycling bin for these types of plastic bags.
The regulation of plastic bags has been causing so many issues there is legislation proposed this year to limit how a municipality can regulate usage.
“There’s Assembly Bill 730 that’s coming through, potentially, right now that’s going to limit our ability to regulate any sort of containers,” Wiza said. “There’s a movement called ‘Ban the Bag.’ I know some municipalities in California have actually banned the use of plastic bags. That Assembly bill would prohibit Wisconsin municipalities from creating something like that.
Assembly Bill 730 wouldn’t just limit a city’s power to regulate plastic bags, but any container at all.”
Another reason Wiza brought the challenge forward is March is around the corner.
“You find a lot of garbage. As the snow’s melting this spring, you’re going to see all the things left behind and plowed under or snowed over. Soda cans, bottles and empty wrappers of this, that and the other things,” he said. “A lot of those things are going to be plastic bags. So, I thought this would be a good time to bring awareness to that because it costs the (taxpayers) money to clean this stuff up.
“If we can get people to be a little more conscious about what they’re using, what they’re throwing away and what they’re recycling, that’s going to save money in the long run,” he said.
“During the entire month of March, I’m going to challenge everyone to ‘Boycott the Bag.’ When you go shopping, bring your own or choose paper, but do not choose plastic carryout bags. I know it will require a little change in our lifestyles, but let’s give it a try,” said Wiza.
“Rather than enacting a ‘ban’ or proposing a ban at Common Council, let’s just see if we can get voluntary compliance,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of making rules to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do, but I am a big fan of encouraging people to do the right thing.”
For more information, contact Wiza at [email protected].