Thursday, March 17, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin...

This link to a story in the Milwaukee Journal came across my radar the other day. GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have proposed and will be deciding (or perhaps have decided by now) on whether to put in place a preventative ban on potential future restrictions on the use of plastic bags. That's right - at the final meeting of the year for the state senate, among the bills being discussed was a bill to ban the banning of plastic bag use. There are no current proposals to ban or restrict the use of plastic bags - which are harmful to the environment and wildlife, whether people choose to believe it or not - in Wisconsin, but some of the lawmakers want to make sure nobody gets the bright idea to do so any time in the future.

Update: The bill passed.

Can you imagine what would happen if Wisconsin store owners - like store owners in some other states - were no longer allowed to offer plastic bags to their customers? What on earth would people do?? Would they be expected to bring their own used bags from home (Ewwww!), or canvas tote bags - or, heaven forfend, a granny basket - for a short drive to the grocery store? Could consumers be charged 5 or 10 cents for each plastic bag they need at stores to transport their cartfuls of groceries, clothing, and paper products to their SUVs because they couldn't remember to bring along their own bags from home? My dear Lord, the horror!

I love my granny basket! I use it every time I go to the store.

The poor cashiers at Piggly Wiggly (that's a grocery store, for my non-Wisconsin readers) would have to re-train themselves not to ask "[Would you like to contribute to the world's pollution problem with] paper or plastic?"

Bravo, lads and ladies! You successfully banned bans on what hasn't been banned yet, so we don't have to face the inconvenience of doing one tiny thing for the benefit of our environment! There will be no future lawmakers stomping on our freedom to pollute our rivers, lakes, and seas, strangle wild water fowl and adorn farmers' fields and parks with plastic sacks we no longer need or that blow away on a windy day.

Germans take it as a matter of course that they need to bring their own baskets, bags, or crates to the grocery store or pay for bags at the store. Most retail stores in Germany offer bags for free, but they ask first if the customer needs one. Most often we consumers have a bag or purse large enough to stuff whatever we bought into it rather than taking a new bag. If you live here long enough you get used to sticking an extra small canvas bag or two into your purse or backpack for incidental purchases. It's just not a big problem in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, I could have ironed them, but then you wouldn't see
how well-used they are.

Why it is these Wisconsin lawmakers feel the urge to pronounce loudly and clearly that they (and therefore supposedly the people of Wisconsin they represent?) don't give a hoot about the environment - and certainly not at the expense of personal convenience - will remain a mystery to me. Proposing, discussing and passing a law to prevent potential future laws from encouraging consumers to use less plastic was apparently important enough to use up some of the "11 hours the state senate spent working yesterday during the last day of the season."

Well, good work, folks. I thought the GOP wanted less government regulation, not more. But the proposal is to prevent communities from deciding themselves whether plastic bag use should be limited? The only arguments I've seen for this ban on future restrictions is that it would be inconvenient for consumers and expensive for businesses (it would be expensive for businesses to stop providing free plastic bags??). Screw the environment - each of us only needs it to serve us for about 85 years anyway - screw marine life (a study by the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the world's oceans than fish), and screw the notion of trying to cut down on the tremendous amount of waste that is dumped daily into landfills in the U.S..

I'm not an active environmentalist, but I am willing to bring my own bags or basket when shopping, and I think lots of other Americans would do the same without grumbling more than a few months about it.

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
How about the Great Lakes Garbage Patch, discovered in 2012?

Researchers are not making this stuff up, folks. And yes, one person does make a difference, however small. Bring your own bag(s) when you go shopping, or at the very least, reuse the bags you bring home as many times as you can. Use paper bags to cover textbooks or wrap presents. Use plastic for garbage can liners or pet poop picker-uppers. They'll still end up in the landfills, but at least they were used more than once.

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