One does not have to look far to see the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags. They clog storm drains, get caught in vegetation, float in our waters , and endanger wildlife. It is almost impossible to sum up the immense cost — financial or environmental.
Most all the bags are made with low-density polyethylene, a material that takes hundreds of years to break down into microscopic particles. When multiplied against the estimated 23 billion plastic bags used in New York State every year, it is staggering to think most are only used once before being thrown away. The environmental impact broadens when we consider that the bags are made using non-renewable oil.
The wide-scale effects on our local wildlife are extremely disheartening. Animals, birds and marine life frequently ingest the bags thinking they are a natural food source, such as jellyfish. Even animals as large as cows eat the bags that end up on their grazing grounds. This often results in fatal consequences, as the bags are laden with chemicals, indigestible and cause bodily obstructions.
Protecting Nassau County’s environment from this problematic plastic saves oil, electricity and landfill space while reducing pollution and saving wildlife. We have to protect our environment and to do that we all must play a part.
While the bags are cheap to make, they still cost retailers and food establishments about 2 cents each. This expense is added into the goods and prepared food you are purchasing, thus raising prices.
Clean-up efforts around our neighborhoods, parks and beaches is costly. Long Island recycling stations are brought to a halt three times a day as bags get caught in sorting machinery.
These bags are easily replaced with biodegradable, reusable bags — a small step that will have a lasting positive impact on our county’s environment while saving our government much-needed funds.
That is why I am supporting a bill filed by Legis. Debra Mule (D-Freeport). With the help of the Nassau County Majority Caucus, we could reduce consumers’ reliance on these single-use bags. Minimizing the use of plastic bags is a logical and important step in keeping our environment free of the perils of plastic bags and the dangers they pose to wildlife.
I have great optimism that arising issues will be addressed and the legislation will be implemented as soon as possible.
It is time for change.
Laura Curran is the Nassau County executive.