To the editor:
Surprisingly, few political topics seem more divisive than whether plastic bags are allowable. We’ve heard many arguments about why we should or should not use them in Logan, but I think one topic has not been given the attention it deserves: Microplastics in the environment.
Most of the arguments I’ve seen about why we should continue to allow plastic bag use is that in Cache Valley we don’t live by an ocean, that only a few bags blow away, or that they degrade in sunlight. At the core of these arguments is the notion that our plastic bag use doesn’t have much impact on the environment. This is wrong.
Scientists just found shocking amounts of microplastics in the Arctic. The microplastics were blown by wind from populated human sites. Microplastics are shed from clothes, cosmetics, and yes, plastic bags. Perhaps even more so from plastic bags. When they are exposed to sunlight, they do not biodegrade, but they do photodegrade, which is to become more brittle and break into smaller pieces. Microplastics may change the structure and properties of sea ice and work their way up the food chain from plankton, to fish and fowl, and to us.
I am not suggesting that Cache Valley “caused,” or even contributed a large amount, to the microplastic crisis in the Arctic. What I am saying is that we as humans are all in this together. We cannot expect the rest of the world to change without doing our part. And while I’m not saying our microplastics are blowing into the Arctic necessarily (though they could be), they are definitely contaminating our local air, soils, and nearby Rocky Mountains.
I hope Logan City Council members, Cache County Council members, and Cache County Solid Waste Advisory Board members take harmful microplastics into consideration when picking up the plastic bag debate again this fall.