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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Paper or plastic? Not a government choice

    The question of paper versus plastic has haunted eco-conscious consumers for decades. Cloth bags have gained popularity, making the trip to the grocery store less of a chore and more of a political statement. A bag stopped representing nothing and began to represent how an individual could impact the environment. Now, the city of Tucson is entering a debate that is looming in many other states.

    The Arizona Daily Star reported that City Councilman Paul Cunningham has asked the council to discuss pushing residents to use fewer plastic bags by charging a fee per bag. While many applaud this step forward by the local government, one must also seriously think about how plastic stacks up against its competitors.

    For instance, take the paper bag. A study in 2007 (funded by the Progressive Bag Alliance, which promotes the response use and recycling of plastic bags) found that manufacturing a paper bag takes nearly four times as much energy as manufacturing a plastic one. While the paper bag is biodegradable, one can argue that the energy used in producing the bag outweighs the benefit of its biodegradability.

    In addition, why does the City Council have the authority to make this decision? Plastic bags have had a bad rap for a long time, but there should be more research before a serious discussion takes place. Business owners should get to decide how he or she wants to help the environment. If the local government really wants to improve the environment, it should give the business community the opportunity to choose how instead of pigeonholing business owners into one path.

    Next, there is the cloth bag. While this sounds like the perfect solution, there is a catch. A 2006 report by the Environment Agency, a U.K. government body, found that a reusable cloth bag would have to be used 131 times to reduce its environmental impact to that of a plastic bag’s. While many wish to think the best of our society, one should also notice the improbability of that statement.

    Cloth bags normally cost money already for the actual consumer, and the idea of using the same bag more than a hundred times without fail seems like a lengthy challenge. While the cloth bag offers fewer disadvantages than the alternatives, there is an underlying question that supersedes all of these inquiries.
    Why does the government care so much? There are enough problems already with a failing economy and a weak infrastructure for the expanding population.

    If the local government wants to help Tucson’s environment so badly, it should try to protect the wildlife native to the area. As urban sprawl continues, the desert is becoming less of a habitat and more of a metropolis.

    The issue of what type of bag is better seems like a Band-Aid on a gaping wound, but taking on Tucson’s real environmental issues is the only way to save an environment worth preserving.

    _— Megan Hurley is a journalism junior. She can be reached at
    letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions._

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