September 10, 2011
More than 40 years ago, in the iconic movie “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman was told that the future of America was “plastics.” Of course, it was a time before we were environmentally conscious and before we understood the negative impacts of plastics on our landscape.
Since it seems that almost everyone in Aspen has offered an opinion about the plastic bag controversy except for Mr. Hoffman, Ann Bancroft (who is no longer with us), and me, I can’t resist the temptation to add a few thoughts of my own. After all, it’s an exciting new subject and it gets downright boring to keep fighting about the S-curves.
Plastic bags, bottles and a lot of other “man-made stuff” have negative impacts on our natural ecology. Although I understand the city’s desire to decrease plastic bag use through taxation, I believe it is the wrong approach. Councilman Torre was correct.
If plastic bags are bad, we should just ban them. We don’t “tax asbestos.” We ban it in new construction! It’s clear as a “transparent plastic bag” from the dry cleaners to me that what the city is really looking for is a new source of revenue. We started paid parking because of congestion in town, but paid parking will be with us until hell freezes over, even in the offseason, when Aspen can look more like a ghost town than Ashcroft because our politicians have become addicted to the revenues.
What’s wrong with generating some extra tax money and protecting our environment, too? Isn’t that the classic win-win? Not so fast! You are headed down a slippery slope. There are plenty of things out there that may be “bad for us.” Soft drinks cause obesity. Milk and eggs raise cholesterol. Bacon contains nitrites which may increase cancer risk. Bicycle use results in broken bones and costly hospitalizations. Should the city put extra taxes on all these things in the name of “social welfare”?
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My suggestion is a simple one. If plastic bags are bad, and we want to promote Aspen as an environmental mecca, we should just ban the bags. However, if we keep them and tack on an extra tax as is now proposed, the last thing we should do with the money is give it to the city. Every dime should be donated to the Sierra Club or a worthy environmental charity right here in the Roaring Fork Valley.