Bag man: A state senator has the right idea on plastic waste

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One man's trash may be another man's treasure, but the plastic bags they use to carry that stuff around is mostly waste.

State Sen. Daylin Leach has a good idea for reducing the number of flimsy plastic grocery bags that are filling up Pennsylvania's landfills, cluttering the landscape and posing hazards for animals in their natural habitats: Start charging 2 cents apiece for bags at retail establishments.

The sum is not enough to cause financial hardship for anyone who really needs the bags -- maybe for a long walk home from the market on a rainy afternoon, for instance. But it's enough that many shoppers may decide they'd rather save a few cents and use a paper, cloth or other more-durable satchel for their purchases.

The environment would be the chief beneficiary.

According to Mr. Leach, a Democrat who represents Montgomery and Delaware counties in Harrisburg, the average American family uses 60 plastic bags in just four trips to the grocery store. The tally only goes higher with each trip to buy take-out meals, clothing and other household goods.

Some jurisdictions already have gone much further than Mr. Leach's proposal. In June, Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the nation, gave big stores until Jan. 1 to use up their supply of plastic bags; smaller stores have six more months. Bans on single-use bags have long been in effect in Seattle and San Francisco, as well as on Massachusetts' Nantucket Island, in Brownsville, Texas, and in Aspen, Colo., to name a few. Lawmakers in New York City and Chicago are seeking to legislate similar bans. Other communities have started charging for bags or offering refunds for sacks that are returned to stores.

Limiting the one-time use of plastic bags is a small contribution consumers can make to improving the environment. That's our two-cents' worth.

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