For many years, humans have continually abused the earth. Now, when citizens of Duluth propose a small way to alter destructive habits, the News Tribune and its Editorial Board, rather than embracing Bagit, chose to recommend that an ordinance change be rescinded. (Our View: “City Council can bag the bag fee already,” Dec. 14).
This is 2020 and, yes, a year of one unique situation after another. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the pollution to the waterways and the earth. It seems the newspaper thinks we are not capable of addressing more than one issue at a time. It failed to see that all issues intersect, and the biggest intersection is the planet itself.
The Bagit campaign worked for more than three years to educate and prepare the public for a smart change that actually would make a difference to our planet. We had thousands of Duluthians sign a pledge to use reusable bags. We educated our City Council and supplied sample ordinances used all over the country.
We are not the first to attempt to charge a nominal fee for plastic shopping bags. We are actually way behind many countries and cities.
The Bagit campaign never presented itself as a solution to plastic consumption. It is a baby step. When a child takes a step and falls, do we say, “Oh, don’t bother trying to walk. Just keep crawling along. You might never get where you want to go, but at least you are comfortable.” Change only comes through vision, hard work, and, many times, not being comfortable.
The plastic industry used COVID-19 as a means to convince people that reusable items were not safe. There was not and there is not any reliable scientific data to support the idea that people have become infected from using reusable bags. The media picked up on the plastic industry’s message and supported it rather than looking to better sources. It worked. Fear is a great motivator, but the fear was misplaced due to poor fact-checking.
The fear everyone should have is that there will not be clean water in the northern half of Minnesota, infrastructure will be full of our discarded waste, and more landfills will be needed.
The Bagit campaign is more than switching to reusable bags. Hopefully, it is a mindset change to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Thanks to the businesses which already are following the science and allowing reusable bags.
It seems to me, the newspaper and its Editorial Board are stuck in the past. We are way beyond recycling being able to get us out of our mess.
The editorial referred to the cost. There are so many more costs than a nickel a bag that we are incurring now as a result of pollution. It will only get worse if we don’t change our habits.
Does anyone think the stores provide the bags for free now? Does anyone think disposal costs aren’t factored into stores’ budgets? Who thinks we are not paying more and more for disposal and infrastructure fees? Who will pay for landfills? Where will they be placed?
The editorial ended with a tired old refrain, the claim that “Duluth is a tough place to do business.” If we had been, maybe taxpayers’ dollars wouldn’t be helping to pay to clean up a contaminated Superfund site in the western part of our city.
Gay Trachsel is a member of the Bagit Committee and co-chair of natural resources for the League of Women Voters Duluth.