Plastic bags: Ally or enemy?  

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism recently taught an online environmental journalism to a group of university students in Peru. This is one of the stories produced during that effort. The program was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Lima.

By Luz Cachay Torres  

Brunswick is a city on the coastline of Georgia in the United States, and when I first arrived there, I couldn’t stop being shocked by the amount of plastic bags that they use.  

At first, I took my own bag whenever I went shopping, but as the days went by, I started to forget it. 

Seeing all the people grabbing them didn’t look so bad. I got to collect more bags in one week than I used to in an entire month back at home in Peru. 

This situation kept me thinking: Are plastic bags really that bad? 

By using them, are we silently killing nature? Am I a bad person if I don’t use a reusable bag?  

Plastic bags are not really a problem, and demonizing plastic won’t make us any better.  

Plastic, whether we want it or not, has been a huge help for our development as a society.  

I decided to point out the good things and not get carried away by my first impression. 

Becky Gravley, the sanitation contract supervisor in Brunswick, confirms that the city doesn’t have any law that regulates the use of plastic bags.  

Republic Services does provide garbage and solid waste collection and disposal, and provides recycling services, but recycling is not mandatory in the city.  

Returning to plastic bags, there is still a debate on whether they should be banned or not. If they are used well, especially those given out in supermarkets, they are useful in everyday life.  

The real problem is the excess of them and the lack of management.  

Since 2019 in Peru, we have had a law that regulates the use of plastic bags and charges a fee on biodegradable bags that will increase over the coming years. This applies to businesses.  

The goal is to stop using plastic or biodegradable bags.  

Still, as a country we have a long way to go when it comes to plastic regulation. There’s no control over that law, and people who are not aware of the consequences of single-use plastic bags continue to use them, even opening a chance for informal plastic sellers.  

In the United States, only eight states have a law that regulates single-plastic use.  

In New Jersey, a law banning plastic bags enacted some weeks ago is causing some commotion.  

If a plastic bag ban were to be enacted, not only here but in any other state, it should be progressive, considering all factors.  

People’s habits can’t change from one day to another.  

We could change our point of view and think of the companies that produce plastic bags and ask why we center our attention just on the consumer and not on the provider.  

In the end it’s a choice.  

We can choose if we want to reduce our consumption of plastic bags or plastic in general or not, even more so if we are aware of the current situation. We can be a living example, spread the word, let people be aware of this and try to embrace these changes as part of our culture

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