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Should towns ban plastic bags?

When shopping in Brownsville, Texas, you might be taken aback when you’re charged a buck to use plastic bags to take out your groceries. That’s because Brownsville is the first city in the state to enact a plastic bag ban.

The city passed a law that gives shoppers several options when purchasing goods. They can walk out with the products in hand, put them in a bag, box or whatever they bring with them, buy reusable bags that cost from 25 cents to a $1 each, or cough up $1 for an “environmental fee” and take out their goods with plastic bags.

Brownsville joins San Francisco, which was the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags. Citing the environmental cost, Brownsville enacted the ban to curb the city’s consumption of what are locally known as “urban tumbleweeds,” because of the bags’ tendency to be swept up by a breeze and get tangled in fences and tall grass. They also clog gutters and drainage systems.

How can one state allow the speed limit on its interstates to be 70 m.p.h. while others allow only 65 m.p.h.? It is because of a power granted to states by the federal government through an act of legislation allowed under the 10th Amendment. The 10th Amendment specifies that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is called devolution, meaning that laws are enacted by the level of government that best suits the people. That is why your town is responsible for how fast you can go down the main strip, but the car you drive is determined to be safe through state inspections.
“We’ve got national support for a local cause,” said Rose Timmer, executive director of Healthy Communities of Brownsville, the group that championed the ban. Many merchants, from big-box retailers like Walmart to local shops, support the ban. H-E-B, a Texas-based supermarket chain, has even provided $50,000 to Healthy Communities for a citywide marketing plan that included billboards and advertisements.

While Brownsville residents may seem receptive to the ban, other communities faced stiff resistance. In 2009, Philadelphia tried to enact a ban, but the city council voted it down after complaints from businesses that said the ban would hurt business or drive people out of the city for their groceries. The American Chemistry Council, a trade association that represents the plastics industry, argued that recycling is the answer to the plastic bag issue.

Another issue that the bans raise is at what level should governments enact environmental policy. Many progressive cities argue that environmental policy should start at the local level and like-minded cities and towns across the country can enact meaningful environmental laws. Others argue that by enacting legislation like the plastic bag ban, cities and towns put themselves at an economic disadvantage with little impact on the environment.

What do you think?

What do you think about Brownsville’s plastic bag ban? Should other cities enact the ban? Do you think the ban will hurt local businesses? At what level should governments enact laws like the plastic bag ban? At the local, the federal, or the state? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Ledyard, CT
I agree that plastic bags should be regulated by local government in towns, but in some cases they should not be banned. Each town has its own circumstances. If a state were to put a ban on plastic bags it may hurt the infrastructure. If a town small town with a small general store lost plastic bags there may be more consequences than a large chain grocery store that sells reusable bags at the counter. Small general stores may not have the options like many of the larger nationwide stores and may not be able to afford such a drastic change on the bags.

Ledyard, CT
I agree that plastic bags should be regulated by local government in towns, but in some cases they should not be banned. Each town has its own circumstances. If a state were to put a ban on plastic bags it may hurt the infrastructure. If a town small town with a small general store lost plastic bags there may be more consequences than a large chain grocery store that sells reusable bags at the counter. Small general stores may not have the options like many of the larger nationwide stores and may not be able to afford such a drastic change on the bags.

Ledyard, Ct
Cathy A.
Galante - Ledyard
I think that the Plastic Bag Ban is genius. Costing people even something as simple as a dollar gets the point across to try to help the environment just a little more. Plastic bags are harmful to the environment around us and to keep that on our mind and as the main issue I believe that we all have to sacrifice a little. Choosing a paper bag is not a huge difference, yet the one it makes is. All cities that have a grocery store or any other kind of shop that uses plastic bags should take this ban seriously. This band could definitely effect businesses, and whether it is for the good or bad I am not sure. Although it might have a small change, true customers would stay due to their liking of the store. State governments should enact this law that way no matter which town you go to you will still use a paper bag and it will help with the rate of customers.

Jordan B
Mr. Galante
While I think that stores shoudl have the option for environmental safe bags, and should definitely promote the idea and encourage people on the evironmental safe option, banning plastic bags may be too expensive. By banning plastic bags stores would have to be able to provide environmental safe bags, which would cost more. However, if stores still provided environmental safe bags and encouraged customers to bring their own shopping bags, then the use of plastic bags would decrease and there wouldn't be as much of an economic disadvantage.

Brandi F
Ledyard High School
I don't believe that there should be a ban on plastic bags because many people reuse their plastic bags for other things once they get them from the grocery stores. Also, I belive that if stores really wanted to help out with the environment then they wouldn't even offer paper or plastic and they would just offer the paper bags which are better for the environment

I believe that plastic bags should not be banned. They are a cheap and easy way to carry multiple goods. I do, however, believe that there should be a heavier fine for littering with plastic bags because they're so bad for the environment.

Angela C.
Mr.Frank/Northeast High School
I think it is a great idea that Brownsville ban plastic bags because it sets an example to other states. Not only does it saves money but it helps the environment and eliminate excessive resources. According to The American Chemistry Council argues that recycling is the answer to plastic bag issue. I also agree that environmental policies should start locally and eventually result across the states and countries. Many businesses have already charge consumers for plastic bags like Ikea,BJs, Save A Lot and etc. to save money for their companies and help the environment. Reusable bags is small way to help the economy and reduce global warming. Banding the making of plastic bags does not put the workers out of a job because they can start producing reusable bags. This is why I believe it is a "win-win" situation.

S. Colmn
Northeast high school
NO! I believe that towns should NOT ban plastic bags. Have people forgotten about recycling? Some people reuse plastic bags in their homes such as myself and my family for storage, recycling other materials, or trash. Replacing plastic bags with paper is a bad idea because if it rains the paper bag will fall apart and will impact environment much more (rapid reduction of trees). I see plastic bags all over some cities but there is nothing we can do if some of the people around us don't recycle the right way. Instead of banning plastic bags, make a fine if people liter them outside! Banning plastic bags in my opinion is ridiculous and no matter what we replace them with or if we keep them there will always be harm to the environment. The key is recycling better and using less all the right way. Right now, if there was a switch from plastic bags to paper bags well guess what? You'd be seeing them in the bushes instead of plastic bags then. Not all places are trashy though. Most people need to learn to conserve and reuse correctly with care for the environment and there needs to be a stricter law for a cleaner area or people actually cleaning the area. They should leave plastic bags be and find a better way to bring out plastic bags or find something else that's a bigger problem than this that is harming our world. I don't know why some people want to ban plastic bags because there would be less convenience without them in our life because we use them for more than just groceries.

Mrs. Campbell/ North Star School
I see no problem with the ban on plastic bags and encourage other cities to enact it as well. Since grocery shopping is largely based on price and relative convenience due to location, the ban would have little effect on local businesses. Moreover, not providing the “complimentary” bags would save the businesses money. Also, I haven’t met a person that has a problem with helping the environment. If they offered a substitute for the bags, I’m sure the switch would be flawless. Although I fully support the project, I feel it should be dealt with on a local basis, excluding the federal government. I hope this ban expands and I will see it reach into my own state.

sidney, mt
Zack B
Sidney high school
they should not because most people use plastic bags. It would harm the economy then help it.

Seattle WA
K Hansen
I think that plastic bags should be banned. According to: http://www.earthresource.org/campaigns/capp/capp-background-info.html, "statistics show that we are consuming more and more plastics every year. It is estimated that an average individual uses around 130 plastic bags per year. Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable natural resource: petroleum, so they cannot be recycled like paper bags." It would be even better if everyone bought re-usable bags and didn't have to cut down the trees for that purpose. Here in Seattle, stores often sell re-usable bags! Plastic bags stay around for a very long time and do not decompose very quickly and manufacturing them is harsh on the environment.

Austin B.
Greencastle-Antrim High School
Plastic bags have made a big impact in the environment. When you throw away a plastic bag it should go in the trash can not outside where it can hurt the environment. The state of Texas has placed ban on plastic bags because of this reason. Now you will have to pay a dollar for a plastic bag or you will just have to carry all your stuff by hand. According to http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0902_030902_plasticbags.html plastic bags have become a very common litter on the street and over ten countries including part of the U.S have placed a ban on plastic bags so that they can have a safer environment. I think that it is fine to ban plastic bags but we should also just work up


Greencastle-Antrim, Greencastle
I believe towns should no longer have the use of plastic bags. I believe all bags should be made out of paper that can be recycled and reused to make new bags. On my way to work I look out the window and I always see multiple plastic bags in the bushes and trees. These plastic bags are harmful to our environment. Plastic can hurt animals and it takes a very long time to decompose. Plastic bags clog our gutters and drainage systems. Changing bags to paper will be a lot cheaper than paying for plastic bags. According to Reuseit.com, reasons why plastic bags should be banned are, The energy needed to manufacture and transport disposable bags eats up more resources and creates global warming emissions and the toxic chemical ingredients needed to make plastic produces pollution during the manufacturing process. Plastic bags in landfills take 1,000 years to break down and when they do they pollute our air and water. I believe all plastic bags should be banned to keep our environment safe.


B., Greencastle-Antrim High School
In my opinion, plastic bags are convenient but also create problems for our environment. Ill be the first to admit that at times I am to lazy too pick up a bag that is rolling across the parking lot of a near by grocery store or stop my own from flying away. However, I feel that if a ban is passed to so called “tax”, these urban tumbleweeds. That business would be lost when people by large amounts of items from the stores when they have to pay for 5 or 6 bags, when money is already tight in this rough economy. I know that $1 does not seem a lot, but how often do you buy groceries a week? Once? Twice? If you’re like me maybe upwards of three times a week for simple items like soda or chips. Think about! That 89 cent 2 liter soda now cost a dollar more and that is not including the tax, depending which state you are located in. A five-year-long study by the Ocean Conservancy found that small plastic bags made up about 9 percent of the debris found along various U.S. coasts, and that the percentage of bags being recycled has increased by 27% over the last 3 years. Furthermore, the same study found that plastic bags generate 50% less emissions, and 70% less energy than paper bags. My opinion is clear that the ban is not in my favor and will only bring more problems to the economy and bag boys at the register.


Cd high school, Pa
towns should ban plastic bags. I think this becasue it would help the environmentand save alot of money becasue paper is cheaper. the reusable bag is the best way to save the envitonment.


Central Dauphin High School, Harrisburg
I think its a waste of time banning plastic bags or worrying about what happens to the bag after its leaves the store with a costumer. There are way worse things that harm the enviorment then plastic bags. I think that businesses that use plastic bags are just trying to make an extra buck.


Mcrae, pennsylvania
Yes I do believe towns should ban plastic shopping bags. It would really help the environment and save stores money on the bags. Also it would be a really good idea to use the reusable bags to help the environment in a big way.


Sandra N.
Mr. Frank/ Northeast HS, Philadelphia, PA
Its a good idea to make people pay a buck or two just to use a plastic bag for their groceries, that way they may be encouraged not to waste money and use it. It might also force them to either buy and/or bring reusable bags or boxes of their own if they don't want to waste their money. Although recycling is probably the answer to the plastic bag issue, there is always the possibility that people aren't going to do it. You have to admit that sometimes its not always the wind that blows the plastic bags away and onto the streets. Some people are just so lazy that they just decide to litter their plastic bags on the street or 'miss' the trash can. They may also think that either the recycling bin is too far away for them or believe that there would be plenty of other people to clean up their mess and recycle so they don't have to do it. And if they are that lazy then I'm not sure that they would be inclined to drive all the way out of the city just to bag their groceries in plastic. Besides its a win-win for the environment and the store. There will probably be less plastic bags on the streets and the store earns that much more money from the people paying for the plastic bags.


Mr.Frank/Northeast High School, Philadelphia/PA
I believe that plastic bags should be banned from all business places. The only thing plastic bags are doing to the towns making the streets filled with bags everywhere and by letting our streets look dirty. People should make the effort to buy a reusable bag which it would only be 25 cents, and they wouldn't be harming the environment. Reusable bags are a great idea because you have something to carry your groceries in but you still to keep the bag and that’s one less piece of trash. This is why I believe that it would be a great idea for plastic bags to get banned from most towns in as many cities possible.


Southridge Middle, Fontana, CA
Why didn't we see this coming? We just kept taking, and kept producing. We're now just starting to realize that we are hurting ourselves. A little counts in a long run. If this happened on a national level, then we might just make some progress. People don't like change. Simply put.


Sarah O.
Mr. Frank/Northeast HS, Philadelphia, PA
Banning plastic bags is an ideal way to help the environment, though public cooperation might be a problem. Also, businesses complain that it will affect them. In my opinion, it may be helpful, but the public might not adapt to the changes in their lifestyle too smoothly. If everyone wasn't so focused on themselves, and thought about the 'big picture', they would realize that they could save their money and the environment with some financial discipline. It may be rough for businesses initially, but in time it would be effective. I believe that people need to start thinking like they're apart of a community. Its not much cheaper to have plastic bags if the earth is at cost to the impact of plastic bags.


Sidney Highschool, Sidney, MT
I think completely banning plastic bags is unrealistic. It is a very good idea though in the way that it will eliminate waste from the enviroment. If the grocery store is going to make you pay a $1 for plastic bags, why not just buy a reusable bag for a $1 and that would be a one time fee. It's super easy to take a reusable bag to the grocery store and actually very convenient!


Brooke B
Sidney High School, Sidney, MT
i think that towns should not have to ban plastic bags. yes it does hurt the enviroment but recycling is the key we should make a law that says we have to recycle instead. so many peolpe dont recycle but having the law will help the enviroment alot and we wouldnt have to worry about loosing our plastic bags.


Shufang, Y.
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
I believe the town should require companies to bring incentives for their customers, rather than a complete ban on plastic shopping bag. By allowing companies to encourage the use of reusable bags, you are educating the public, not the business owner will have to pay tax that is more cloth or paper bag. In addition, the environmental hazards of plastic in our landfills and rise to our beaches and ocean space. Paper requires the destruction of our forest trees sensitive to damage animal habitats and spin-off of our land.


Alan H. Mr, Frank 8th
Mr Frank/ Northeast HS, Philadelphia Pa
Plastic bags should not be banned because people need them to hold their things. Banning plastic bags is just going to make the world more difficult. Instead of banning plastic bags,they could be doing other things. Plastic bags are helpful things and taking it away will not solve anything. Plastic bags don't hurt nobody, they should go ban ciggerrets instead. Plastic bags are also reusable, people need them and taking it away wont solve nothing.

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