Blog : All Politics are Local

By Sarah Mahoney | Apr 29, 2015 | in

Josh Denton is a guest blogger who is very active in environmental activism in Portsmouth as well as a member of the Green Alliance.

All politics are local. The environment, climate change, and America’s energy independence are not just big intangible ideas for only state, federal, and foreign governments to address. Portsmouth’s City Council can contribute by enacting the single-use, carry-out, plastic bag ordinance.

Harm to marine life, or the greenhouse gas emitted for a plastic shopping bags’ single use, is why many support the ordinance. I advocate for it because our reliance on the fossil fuels that these convenience items derive from continually sends our service members into combat. An Iraqi infantry battalion combat advisor teammate of mine eight years ago, is back at the same Iraqi base today, doing almost the same exact thing. Part of breaking this cycle of oil dependence and war is Americans consciously and collectively using less single-use plastics.

A cradle to grave analysis of the roughly 500 single-use polyethylene plastic shopping bags the average person uses every year is eye-opening. Petroleum and natural gas are extracted, shipped, and converted into plastic pellets. Next, the pellets are shipped to a film extrusion line, converted into thin-film, and blown into plastic bags. Then the bags are shipped to retail stores, used by consumers, and disposed.

According to a 2011 California State University study, annually producing 10 weekly bags expends 254 gigajoules of non-renewable energy, emits 0.01333 greenhouse gasses, produces 2.35 kg of solid waste, and consumes 19.333 gallons of fresh water. Furthermore, the United States landfill's 94.5 %, recycles 5%, and discards 0.5% of the bags as litter, which due to their aerodynamics, end up in the ocean, breakdown into small pieces, and persist for hundreds of years.

Everyone shops, and passing this ordinance will do more to collectively educate the public on the issue of single-use plastics than simply encouraging reusable bag use ever will. I strongly urge the City Council to enact the ordinance and make a more sustainable future a reality.