homepage logo

We must be mindful of how our actions affect the environment

By Staff | Apr 26, 2017

To the editor:

I am responding to Mr. Dick Hasselman’s letter, which was published in your April 19 issue – an alarming choice, I thought, particularly so close to Earth Day in our “Sanctuary Island” newspaper. The letter argues that a ban on single-use disposable shopping bags “must not happen in our area” because it would be too inconvenient and costly.

The hazards posed by single-use disposable plastics to wildlife and humans are well-documented and atrocious. Anyone can easily find more information (and a variety of disturbing related images) with a simple Google search, so I will not go into detail here. However, I would like to point out the holes in the arguments presented and offer a few easy alternatives.

While it is true that many people use plastic shopping bags to collect pet waste, there are better options available. For $11, it is possible to purchase a long-term supply of biodegradable pet waste bags. These break down far faster than the hundreds of years required by your average shopping bag. As a marine scientist and diver who has noted plastic trash on the ocean floor on literally every single dive in my dive log, I think it’s $11 well spent. I feel the same way about the relatively small sum of money I used to purchase my set of reusable, washable, very convenient canvas shopping bags, which I have been using for years. If the investment is a challenge, the San-Cap chapter of START offers free canvas bags at Bailey’s and other island locations through its Bring Your Own Bag campaign on multiple occasions throughout the year.

Mr. Hasselman also suggests that we should continue producing unnecessary trash so that Lee County’s waste-to-energy plant can make electricity. He is incorrect in saying that nothing ends up in the landfill – in reality, approximately 10 percent of the original volume does. As a resident of Florida (a.k.a. The Sunshine State), where the sun’s rays are abundant, I can’t imagine why we would need to rely on piles of human trash as a source of not-very-clean energy. To me, the facility’s existence serves as a reminder that we are creating more trash than we know what to do with. I also find it upsetting that corporations like Covanta are profiting from our thoughtless resource use and destruction of the planet when our county could support greener energy solutions instead.

Sanibel calls itself a sanctuary island, and has a reputation for being mindful and protective of its creatures and ecosystems. When an environmental problem has a solution as simple as switching to reusable or biodegradable options, but our community cannot be inconvenienced to make that change happen, I don’t believe we deserve that title. It makes me sad that we are not among those cities leading the way to discourage the use of single-use disposable plastic bags in Florida. I urge all island residents to learn more about the issue, and to act accordingly. Taking care of this planet we all share is a serious responsibility, and is not something we can afford to be lazy or self-centered about.

Leah Biery