OPINION: Paper or Plastic? Neither! Bring Your Own Bag

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By Judith Grove

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FRAMINGHAM – According to a current City Councilor the 10-cent Paper Bag fee has angered many residents. The purpose of the fee is to encourage residents to bring their own bags because both paper and plastic are harmful to our environment.

Studies have clearly shown that a fee is essential in accomplishing this goal. My hope is that once the public understands this, they will find that bringing their own bags is easy to do and provides them the opportunity to do something positive for our planet.

Here are some facts about the environmental harm done by paper bags:

Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags each year and the raw materials comes from trees, which absorb carbon dioxide and are one of our greatest tools for fighting pollution.

Paper bag production emits air pollution – 70% more pollution than the production of plastic bags and according to some studies 80% more greenhouse gases.

They take 4 times as much energy to manufacture as plastic bags.

They generate 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bag production.

It takes 91% more energy to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic and 3 times as much water. After paper is collected and sorted, it is washed, turned to sludge, purified, poured, flattened, dried, colored or bleached, cut, and packaged. Each step involves huge machines and intensive energy use, which relies on fossil fuels.

Because they are bigger and heavier, paper bags use more fuel to ship and take up more room in stores and landfills.

The process of recycling paper often consumes more fuel than to make a new bag.

The EPA has stated that in landfills, paper doesn’t degrade all that much faster than plastic. Due to the lack of light, air, and oxygen pretty much nothing decomposes.

This is not to say plastic bags are good. Littered plastic bags are everywhere, including trees. They clog recycling equipment requiring workers to remove them by hand. They are a danger to wildlife causing animals to die of starvation.

In 2013, the City of Framingham was designated by the Department of Energy Resources as one of the Commonwealth’s Green Communities.

Please Bring Your Own Bags as a sign that we deserve this recognition.

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Judy Grove is the former District 8 City Councilor and the former Chair of the City Council’s Environment and Sustainability Subcommittee and member of the Task Force which amended the Plastic Bag Ordinance to include a 10-cent fee for paper bags in November The fee did not go into effect until July 5, 2021, so that businesses would have time to prepare for the change.

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