Life After Plastic

Towns are banning plastic. Mine’s one of them.

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First things first: there are real reasons why bans on plastic straws are harmful to people with disabilities.

As someone who is not disabled and has never had a need beyond convenience for plastic straws, I have learned a lot in recent months by listening to the voices of those who plastic straw bans impact negatively.

For many people, not using straws is fine. They’re still not happy about it.

As someone who doesn’t need straws, I personally have very few feelings about not using them, although I acknowledge that wide availability means better equity for those who need straws. Setting aside that issue momentarily, for many who don’t need them but are used to using them, this shift will require adjustment, and many alternatives are not being welcomed with open arms.

Let’s talk about bags.

My town’s bag ban is fairly new and was rolled out with free paper bags at our local grocery store. According to the clerks at the store, they are going to start charging for paper bags soon. It’s yet unclear whether that will be a 5-, 7-, or 10-cent charge. Currently, paper bags in nearby Brattleboro cost 5 cents. As of July 2020, the law will dictate that recyclable brown paper bags will carry a charge of “not less than $0.10 per bag.”

There are equity issues with bags, too.

Some have noted that reusable bags are fine for suburban folks with cars who have the means to purchase reusable bags or pay the fee for paper bags, but the burden of carrying around reusable bags or being charged for paper bags is undue for low-income communities.

The bottom line

Having seen non-plastic-bag and no-straw solutions in action, it appears to me that for a lot of people, a future without plastic straws or plastic bags is a doable one. At the same time, there are things to consider in terms of what we are tasking fellow community members with when we charge for bags at stores and make straws less (or not) available. I hope that as these issues evolve, we continue to keep in mind our community members for whom these transitions negatively impact.

Essayist, fiction writer + local reporter in VT. She/her.

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