Ann Arbor may soon join a recent green trend that started last year when San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags in its grocery stores. At Monday night’s meeting, the Ann Arbor City Council discussed the possibility of adopting a similar ban to prevent the accumulation of plastic in the streets. Though the city’s decision to table the ban until the June 1 meeting was justified because it allows the city to discuss the issue with local retailers and residents, the ban should remain an important priority. Considering that better alternatives to plastic exist, the city has a responsibility to and enact this ban.

A ban on plastic bags was presented to the City Council last June to put an end to the plastic bags floating around the streets of Ann Arbor. If approved the ban will only affect stores that gross more than $1 million a year, like Meijer and Kroger. Stores that can’t afford to prohibit plastic bags will not be affected. And Ann Arbor isn’t the only city considering plastic bag bans — cities including Boston, Portland and Pheonix are considering similar laws. Los Angeles voted to ban plastic bags last July.

Petroleum-based plastic bags are an environmental hazard because they contaminate soil and waterways once they break down. According to the environmental research group Worldwatch, 100 billion bags each year are thrown away by Americans. As a result, cities including Ann Arbor spend substantial amounts of money cleaning these bags from the streets.

The main reason the city is considering this ban is because of plastic bags littering the streets. It’s a little ridiculous that this problem even exists — people should at least have the decency to throw their trash in one of the numerous garbage cans scattered along the city streets. Regardless of the city’s eventual decision, Ann Arbor’s citizens should dispose of their trash in a more responsible way.

But regardless of the motivation, passing such a ban would have many positive effects. Plastic bags are an unnecessary risk to the environment, and the city will be much cleaner without them. What the city needs to do now is select an alternative to plastic bags that will not cause more harm to the environment. While paper bags seem like the most obvious choice, they are actually just as bad because they require more energy to produce and recycle than plastic. One alternative is the use of compostable bags made from corn or potato starch. San Francisco chose this option after implementing its ban.

Of course, the least costly and most practical solution is for stores to distribute reusable cloth bags that customers bring with them when they shop. Stores like Meijer already offer shoppers this environmentally friendly option. Some shoppers may look at the use of cloth bags as inconvenient, but the conservational quality of cloth bags make them well worth it. But whether or not cloth bags become the option of choice, environmental benefits — and cleaner streets — should have Ann Arbor shoppers welcoming the change.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.