The title is a lyric sung by Katy Perry, originally related to the emotion of worthlessness, but can be also taken as a call for change, as the sight of a plastic bag in the wind is a commonality. It has become routine that when we go to the grocery store to just accept that there will be plastic bags to serve us. We place our fresh vegetables in plastic bags to “protect” them and we buy products like mass produced trash bags and coffee filters that we will use and throw out after one use. All this unnecessary waste could easily be avoided. According to Lehigh County, since the 1950s, the global community has mass produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, half of which has been produced in the last fifteen years alone. With this massive amount of plastic that floats around our habitat and leads to plastic stranded in landfills. These drastic numbers should fill the minds of shoppers as they must stop the habitual use of plastic bags. Right now, as our society makes many transitions, is the perfect time to make it a habit to use reusable bags and totes rather than single-use plastic bags.
My idea to ban plastic bags is not foreign to the United States—it has already been implemented in many states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. These states agree on the basic idea, but use different wording. I believe that when such legislation is passed here, a customer should not be able to leave a store with their items in plastic bag, unless they pay 10¢ per bag at the cash register. This would limit the careless use of plastic bags and instead encourage use of reusable bags. In December 2021, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners considered a bill to ban single-use plastic bags, with only a handful of exceptions. Sadly, this bill was not passed, but it is time to reconsider it. Citizens of the Lehigh Valley should work together to limit the use of plastic bags. They would see the results of their efforts throughout the community. Fewer plastic bags would wash up on shores of the Lehigh River and Monocacy Creek and wildlife would prosper. With reusable bags, our homes and animal habitats will be preserved for the future.
I believe that the main reason plastic bags have not been banned in our communities is because it is an inconvenience to big stores. Local grocery stores such as Wegmans, Weis, and Giant have made plastic bags a basic part of their system at the checkout, and cashiers are trained to bag groceries in plastic bags. If the government were to make it mandatory to supply reusable bags, grocery stores might find it inconvenient, but many people already bring their own bags to the checkout line, and grocery stores use them to satisfy their customers! Warehouse stores in the Lehigh Valley such as Sam’s Club and Costco do not use plastic shopping bags, so why can’t other stores follow their lead?
I believe the pros greatly outweigh the cons, and a ban on single-use plastic bags would benefit the entire community. Overall, switching to reusable bags will better our planet in the future.
As Katy Perry’s lyric stated, “a plastic bag drifting through the wind” is a risk to our future. It is our time to move forward in the right direction and start to use reusable bags instead of the plastic ones that the stores currently use. Making customers pay for each plastic bag will also promote the use of reusable totes. The Lehigh Valley needs to come together to limit our plastic bag use in order to save our environment!
You can take a step in the right direction today to help this new movement by making little changes to your grocery shopping trip. When you go to the store next time, take a tote bag instead of relying on the bags that will be given to you at checkout. You can also reuse the plastic bags from your previous purchases, or even bring the bags to the recycling station that your store probably has at the entrance. If you plan on only buying two or three items, ask the cashier if you can leave the store without a bag so that you can prevent less waste! Together, we can work our way in the right direction and limit the use of single-use plastic bags so that when legislation is put into effect, it will already be an implemented habit!
Lilyanna is a rising Senior at Liberty High School where she is Treasurer of National Honor Society and a Captain of the Liberty Majorettes. She is an inspirational leader at her school and a conscientious citizen in her community. Lilyanna leads to ensure success for future generations in the Lehigh Valley and students who follow in her footsteps.
Editors note: In neighboring New Jersey, the new law went into effect in May; it bans plastic bags and styrofoam food service products throughout the state.