A ban on plastic bags, good call for Omaha

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com
Alexandria Wilson reflects on why the recent call to ban plastic bags is a good choice for Omaha and the environment.

Alexandria Wilson

“Paper or plastic?” could be a question coming to an end in Omaha stores.

Mayor Jean Stothert brought up the idea on March 28, and depending on where they shop, customers may have already begun to experience a lack of plastic bags. Certain natural grocers like Akin’s only offer paper bags, while budget friendly grocery store, Aldi, won’t provide any bags to their customers without a fee.

Omaha wouldn’t be the first city to ban plastic bags, the entire state of Hawaii has a ban as well as cities like Seattle and Austin.

What would the impact of a lack of plastic bags look like? For starters, less debris littering the side of our roads, our rivers, trees and corn fields. It would lead to less bags in our landfills, which may have a bigger impact than most people realize. This type of plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it will never be completely gone from the Earth. Unlike a paper bag which will breakdown over time.

A lack of plastic bags would also be a win for wildlife. Many animals will consume the bags that liter the landscape thinking they are food, this can cause them problems breathing and digesting. Other animals have been known to become entangled in these bags which can lead to strangulation.

Less production of plastic bags would also mean less burning of fossil fuels. The fact that many American’s do not reuse their plastic bags means that more and more fossil fuels are burned to keep up with the demand

While these benefits sound great, there could be some major drawbacks to cutting out a plastic bag option. For starters, plastic bags are a convenient option for consumers and some people have found a place to reuse them in their homes. Plastic bags are also more cost effective to produce so many consumers are concerned the price of groceries will increase if a ban like this takes place.

While the future of this ban in Omaha is unknown it is clear that plastic pollution is a serious environmental issue, and there are some things that environmentally conscious consumers can do to decrease their plastic waste footprint.

If consumers insist on using plastic bags, instead of reusable bags or paper, there are recycling centers where the bags can be processed in a more environmentally efficient way. Do not place them in the usual recycling bins, as they will not get processed. Instead, most chain grocers like Walmart and Target have a bin at the front of their stores where customers can drop off all of their bags and they will be sent to be broken down and eventually reused to create new plastic.

People can also repurpose their bags for things around the home. They can be handy for cleaning up pet waste, or can be reused to help carry things like a lunch to work.

While the ban isn’t official consumers can start to do their part already by choosing paper over plastic, or bringing their own reusable bags to the store.