I applaud the environmentally conscious leadership in Baltimore that passed and implemented legislation to ban single-use plastic grocery and carryout bags (”Third time’s the charm: Baltimore bans plastic shopping bags,” Sept. 24). While the city is working on many issues, cleaning up litter and our Inner Harbor is vital to improving the quality of life for residents and attracting tourists and business investment. Recent plans for a Baltimore Blueway to feature more harbor recreation can only be successful if there is a continued improvement in its cleanliness. It’s time for Baltimore County leadership to support our city, which largely rests within its borders, and do the same.
Plastic bags are used briefly but last for generations in the environment. When they aren’t taking space in landfills, they litter our roads, fields, trees and waterways; they are among the top five pieces of litter identified fouling our beaches. They are lethal if ingested whole or in the form of microplastics to countless land animals, birds and marine life, and they adversely impact our $600 million seafood industry. Scientists estimate that humans are ingesting a credit card worth of plastic each week.
Americans are outsized consumers of single-use plastics. We use about one plastic bag per day, or 365 bags per year, translating to over 300 million single-use bags consumed in Baltimore County annually, the vast majority of which are littered, landfilled or incinerated. Over 127 other countries have banned or restricted single-use plastic bags. Ten states, including Delaware and New Jersey, have passed bans on plastic bags, as have four Maryland municipalities within our state besides Baltimore. Additionally, Montgomery and Howard counties have passed fee legislation. While Maryland prides itself on its protection of the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding environments, we are not doing enough.
While some consider recycling a viable solution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only about 5% of plastic bags are recycled. They are not accepted in curbside recycling because they clog the machinery. Even when collected at grocery stores, they are often too contaminated to be recycled. Some recycled bags in Maryland end up incinerated with other trash, producing more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than even coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski stated: “Our residents expect and deserve a Baltimore County that will remain vibrant and livable for generations to come, and that means we must find more sustainable practices that protect our planet and reduce the amount of garbage we create.”
Johnny, it’s time to ban single-use plastic bags in the county.
Marie LaPorte, Reisterstown
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