Fighting the Plastic Plague

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Former mayor Margo Bailey tells the Chestertown council about  the impact of plastic waste

Margo Bailey has a plan to reduce plastic waste in the environment.

Bailey, the former mayor of Chestertown, came before the town council Tuesday, Sept. 5 as a member of the town’s environmental committee, which she had a major role in creating. A consistent advocate of green policies and practices during her mayoralty, she put through a ban on plastic shopping bags in Chestertown – one of the signature accomplishments of her administration. “I’m not asking for a ban,” she said – but she does have an idea how the town can cut down on the amount of plastic waste it generates.

She began her presentation with a PowerPoint display showing “islands” of plastic trash floating in ocean waters off the Philippines, California, and in Chesapeake Bay. She described the impact on wildlife, killing birds and fish that eat plastic objects, or contaminating their flesh, with chemicals that end up on our dinner plates. She cited the costs to clean up the trash, and to combat the pernicious health effects of the plastic. Only one plastic bottle out of eight is recycled; five million plastic straws are used in the U.S. every day, and they are never recycled, Bailey said.

One of the worst forms of plastic is Styrofoam, which takes centuries to decompose and generates toxic chemicals if used to reheat meals – a real problem, since it is widely used for restaurant take-out containers and hot drink cups.

Bailey offered several simple suggestions for how the town can respond to the epidemic of plastic waste. Sue suggested that the council send a letter to local restaurants asking them to have their serving staff ask customers whether they want a straw with their drinks instead of automatically supplying one – a comparatively recent practice. Also, she said, the restaurants could ask customers whether they want a plastic bag with their takeout orders. If enough customers decline the offers, it could have an impact on waste.

Likewise,  she suggested encouraging people to carry reusable water bottles instead of buying a new plastic bottle of water. People could also take their own carry-out containers to restaurants, reducing the amount of Styrofoam being used. She went on to praise the use of alternative materials, such as hemp – which she said Henry Ford once used to build an experimental car.

Bailey said the environmental committee would supply the council with a sample letter to send to restaurants suggesting the new policies on use of straws and plastic take-out bags.

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. Muriel Cole says:

    Good suggestions. Another one is to keep a re-usable food container in your car, and if you want a doggie-bag (often furnished in a styrofoam box) to take home leftovers after a meal in a restaurant, just use your own container.

  2. vernon miller says:

    i’ll stick to a straw thank you.the many glasses with lip stick lip prints unclean glasses in general.if it comes in a bottle i decline the straw something like the knife fork & spoon we have to clean before using.

    • M.Q. Fallaw says:

      Before there were plastic straws, straws were made of paper (available in several diameters) and worked pretty well (except for straw-biters).

  3. M.Q. Fallaw says:

    If the town is serious about its plastic-bag ordinance/law, it ought to enforce it. The new Royal Farms, on upper High St. at the roundabout, has been using the thin “T-shirt” bags since it opened. The previous RoFo, at Maple & Philosophers Terr./Cross St. observed the law, but perhaps the message never got through to the management of the new store. There may be an exception to allow plastic bags for site-prepared carry-out foods (or maybe just plastic bags that are made to decompose safely/with safe ingredients are acceptable), but this store seems to be using banned bags for all merchandise. (Note: Even McDonald’s manages to use paper bags for carry-out foods.)

    • Keit Thompson says:

      If the town is not serious about enforcing it’s plastic bag ordinance, the town should repeal it. Otherwise, there is a danger of the town enforcing the ordinance in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

  4. Jeanette Sherbondy says:

    I like Margo’s suggestions!

  5. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    How about all take food be put in cardboard containers, similar to what one would find at Whole Foods? lay it again Sam’s could eliminate the plastic containers used for their wonderful sandwiches and salads. Also, how about recycle/ compost on every street that is easy to use? It is painful to see the amount of plastic in trash cans downtown. Also, what about recycling outside Acme and Redners? What is preventing this?!

    Thank you Margo for all you have done and continue to do…you are amazing!!!

  6. Carol Schroeder says:

    What we do throw away as regular garbage for the landfill is usually placed in a green plastic bag which prevents the garbage from decomposing. What about strong paper bags to use for our regular trash? Anyone know more about this? Is it possible?

  7. Rachel Goss says:

    We recycle/reuse the majority of plastics/cans/paper/cardboard at the bin sites around Kent and Queen Anne’s. I wish I knew where to recycle styrofoam…If anyone knows, please share.
    I have noticed that Smoke, Rattle, and Roll uses paper for their take-out food…good practice!

  8. I have an issue with Infinity Recycling which I would like to the town to address. A lot of plastic containers which are turned down by the Recycling Crews can be recycled. Most of them have one or two stamped on them, a number which means the plastic is recyclable. I think the town (and the county) is simply filling the landfill with these plastic containers until the day comes when the landfill has to be closed. It would be nice if Infinity Recycling shifted their policies toward these two types of plastic. In New Jersey, we can recycle these types of plastic. We have single streaming, which means that all the recyclables, be they paper, plastic, or metal, are tossed out in one big bin. They are then separated out again at the recycling center.
    By the way, Chestertown Natural Foods uses eco-friendly plastic bags which decompose. You have a choice as to use eco-friendly plastic or paper bags. We have Jim and Trish to thank for these. Also, Figgs Ordinary allows for customers to bring their own cups. There, you can choose how you discard your garbage. Doug’s Evergrain Cafe needs to get up to speed with Figgs Ordinary.
    I also spend some time picking up garbage alongside the roads and the bike trail and depositing it in the garbage bins offered there by the town because it is ugly and an eyesore. People need to be more conscientious about tossing away garbage in public.

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