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Stores start to step up on limiting bags

October 5, 2018
Editorial , Lake Placid News

Plastic bags can be handy, but they are one of the most common pieces of a litter, and they are the kind that is known to choke and kill large animals. Plus, over time they break down into micro-plastic particles that harm smaller animals throughout the ecosystem.

Paper bags biodegrade better, but they require an undue amount of resources to produce including roughly a gallon of water per bag.

If these short-term convenience bags were really necessary to people's lives, they might be justifiable, but they aren't. It's easy to live without them.

So we are glad the Hannaford supermarket in Lake Placid has started to charge 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag it gives customers, starting Oct. 1. Any other store that still gives away bags for free should start charging for them as well. And 5 cents, which seems to be roughly the current market value of one of these bags, is cheap - maybe too cheap. This is one thing where we'll say, feel free to raise the price.

We doubt many customers will complain. It is now established practice at stores such as Aldi, for example, to either charge for bags or not give them out at all. Reusable shopping bags have become normal. Why must a business give a product away for free when there is significant public pressure not to?

That pressure is clear and present. Many nations have already banned plastic bags, including the United Kingdom, Kenya, China, Chile and Australia. San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle have, too, and California and Boston's bans starts in the next few months. Nearby Warren County is holding hearings on a bag ban of its own. The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees recently heard from elementary schoolers urging it to ban plastic bags here.

But government doesn't need to get involved if businesses will commit to solving the problem on their own. Charging for bags or not providing them could be a free-market solution to a societal problem. We prefer it this way; government bans can be tricky to enforce and result in more pushback and less consensus.

Maybe a few plastic or paper bags have their place, but that place needs to be drastically shrunk from the omnipresence they have now.

But if businesses won't fix it - and they have resisted doing so for many years - government will have to intervene.

The fact that Hannaford plans to give part of that 5-cent charge to local charities sweetens the deal. Not only is the supermarket taking a positive step toward limiting its environmental footprint, but it's taking the opportunity to give back to the community.

We challenge other grocers, convenience stores, drug stores, dollar stores and others do the same.

Meanwhile, we urge our readers to politely decline plastic or paper bags when stores offer them, if you can. Bring or buy reusable shopping containers, and if you must use short-term plastic or paper bags, reuse them as many times as you can. The fewer, the better.



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