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Go reusable

By Staff | Feb 11, 2015

To the editor:

Plastic shopping bags.

They’re rarely recyclable, they take hundreds of years to decompose (and ooze chemicals into our drinking water throughout the process), and they’re harmful to wildlife.

Sea turtles confuse them with jellyfish and suffer from digestive trauma, countless other animals become entangled in them or mistake them for food each year, and they can be found littering beaches worldwide.

Yet, we still use somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion plastic bags annually in the United States – even on our so-called “sanctuary island.” As a Sanibel resident, I have high hopes that our community will begin to take interest in becoming a part of the solution.

We are accustomed to receiving our purchased goods in a neat, easy-to-carry plastic package, which may be convenient, but comes at a great cost to our planet. The good news is that unlike more complicated environmental problems, this one has a simple answer – reusable bags.

Eco-minded towns from Alaska to Connecticut (and many places in between) have demonstrated genuine environmental stewardship by successfully banning single-use, disposable plastic bags, and others are joining the movement almost every week.

On September 30th, California became the first state to announce a statewide ban. In Florida, a state law has removed this power from local governments, but citizens who care about the environment are fighting back.

Led by Flagler College students and approved by city commissioners, the City of St. Augustine, Fla., encourages local businesses to participate in a voluntary plastic bag ban. Businesses have been asked to stop offering plastic bags, and to instead encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags. Sanibel could take similar steps.

Until our state government can be convinced to act responsibly for the ocean that the citizens of Florida so heavily depend on, let’s live up to our sanctuary island name and join the voluntary effort. As a consumer, buy some reusable bags and bring them along whenever you shop. Sanibel businesses that truly care about our island’s wildlife should consider eliminating plastic bags as well.

Sanibel bills itself as a leading community in Florida when it comes to protecting our state’s wildlife and natural resources, but we’re not living up to our claims. We must work together as a community, and make small sacrifices as individuals, to send a strong message to the state of Florida and our many visitors that we value nature more than convenience.

Leah Biery

Sanibel