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Do you remember when people smoked everywhere? Not too long ago, although it was a recognized pollutant, smoking was allowed in restaurants, airports, and even hospitals. Combined strategies solved that problem, including mandatory labeling describing hazards of smoking, taxing tobacco, and banning smoking from public places. These laws were accepted because of increased understanding that smoking is a public, not just individual, danger. Similarly, consider the far-reaching effects of single-use plastic check-out bags. These bags are made from fossil fuel so contribute to climate change and international conflict; are usually used once and often wind up in the Sound; accumulate as trash islands in our oceans; trap, are eaten by, and kill wildlife; break down and enter the foodchain as toxins; and clog storm drains and promote flooding. They also contribute to municipalities’ financial woes, since Connecticut towns now often have to pay to get rid of non-recyclable waste.
Our reliance on single-use plastic is damaging ourselves, each other, the environment, and our wallets. To be clear: We need plastic for certain purposes. However, we don’t need single-use plastic. In fact, we’re drowning in it. The good news is we have reasonable alternatives. As with second-hand smoke, solutions for single-use plastic bags must include increased awareness, financial motivations for change, and a legal ban. Efforts to reduce plastic at the state level may take years; in the meantime, I encourage your readers to support Branford’s proposed ordinance to eliminate single-use plastic check-out bags. I look forward to the day when our children ask—incredulously—“Do you remember when people actually used single-use plastic bags?!”
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The annual guide to the CT River Valley has arrived.