The Public Policy Team of Sustain Mid Maine Coalition supports Waterville’s Question 1, banning free plastic bags at big stores like Hannaford and Walmart. Customers would still get free paper bags.

At a recent City Council meeting, people said that not getting free, single-use plastic bags was an important loss of freedom. This is their argument: If the city takes away one small freedom, eventually Waterville will take away much more important things, like our cars and trucks. There is a big difference between free, single-use plastic bags and the cars we buy for thousands of dollars and use for decades. We all understand this difference, so we don’t need to worry about slippery slopes here. Believe me, the people of Waterville would not let the city ban a truly important freedom.

Why ban single-use plastic bags? Ecomaine no longer accepts plastic bags in Waterville’s recycling bins because they gum up the conveyer belts, so we cannot throw them away for free. Waterville residents use about 4.8 million of these plastic grocery bags per year. Most go to the landfill, but many end up as litter and degrade soil and water quality as they break down into toxic bits.

During runoff in the spring, these bags are carried down rivers to the ocean, where the real damage occurs. Plastic bags in our oceans release dioxin and other toxins that pollute our food chain. Our grandchildren are going to need food from the ocean.

We do not have to choose between freedom and having an ocean that produces food, because getting free plastic bags is not a vital freedom. It is a minor convenience. Let’s focus on protecting the freedoms that really matter to us, and let’s protect our children’s food supply.

Richard Thomas

member, Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition

Public Policy Team

Waterville

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