Plastic is not so fantastic |

Plastic is not so fantastic

Has it really come to this? Must we leave it to the grocery stores or the city of Aspen to force us to bring reusable bags to the store because we can’t make the switch ourselves?

The ongoing, nationwide public discussion about plastic grocery bags is an interesting and educational one. The entire U.S. of A. is waking up to the fact the bags, while convenient for that short trip from the checkout aisle to the kitchen, are difficult to recycle and damaging to our environment. They litter our streets, fill our landfills and, according to the Worldwatch Institute, can take up to 1,000 years to break down.

The Whole Foods grocery chain recently phased out plastic bags, while offering reusable bags for sale in each of its outlets. China and the city of San Francisco are among the governments that have outlawed thin plastic bags. In addition to the environmental arguments, the Chinese government, among others, noted that manufacturing the bags wastes valuable petroleum. We hope it doesn’t come to government action or grocery-store mandates here in Aspen.

We’ll acknowledge that the plastic bags can be reused as dog poop picker-uppers, wastebasket liners, bike-seat covers, lunch bags and other things. But most of the bags that we bring home end up collecting dust in our drawers and cupboards until we finally throw them out, and we suspect that’s what happens in most of our readers’ homes as well. It’s nothing more than a bad habit.

The folks at the Pitkin County landfill are so eager for people to switch to reusable bags that they’re offering free bags made of recyclable plastic to landfill customers who ask for them.

Why not just own up to this problem and fix it, before some crackdown forces the change?

Purchase a few cloth bags (Clark’s Market and City Market both sell them for 99 cents apiece) and just get on with it. Stop the madness.

If we act now, we can even push Aspen to victory in an ongoing contest with the town of Telluride to see which mountain town’s residents can buy the most reusable grocery bags. For each 99-cent purchase of a reusable bag from Aspen’s grocery stores, 5 cents will go into a special fund to be used for some agreed upon “green” purpose. The friendly contest, sponsored by Aspen’s Community Office for Resource Efficiency and Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance, runs from Memorial Day to July 4.

For the sake of the environment, as well as Aspen’s environmental credentials, make the switch to reusable bags. It might not be convenient, but it’s the right thing to do.