Letter: Lee's chance to reduce waste, help environment

Posted

To the editor:

The town of Lee has the opportunity to add its voice to the growing movement to reduce the use of thin plastic film shopping bags and polystyrene (white foam) containers. On May 12, district representatives will vote on a proposal that approves this action.

These petrochemical products are increasingly detrimental to our environment, create ever-growing disposal problems and are potential health risks because they are not biodegradable. Since the 1980s, when their use burgeoned, plastic bags and containers have been piling up, overloading landfills and garbage dumps. They often litter roadsides, picnic areas, woods and streams.

Likely, the ones tossed into our landfills over the years are still with us. It takes 30 to 300-plus years for these products to fully decompose; meanwhile, they are leaching petrochemicals into soils and waterways as they slowly break down.

An article in The New Yorker magazine reports that "By some estimates the world uses and throws away more than a trillion plastic bags a year." A recent documentary titled, "Bag It," describes the plastic bag as the No. 1 consumer item in the world.

Countries worldwide are struggling to deal with the problem; some charge users a fee, some fine users, others ban their use completely. Here in our lovely Berkshires, the problem is being approached in constructive ways.

Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, partners in the Tri-Town Health district, have consulted together on developing bylaws and measures that will deal efficiently and fairly with plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. It is the intention to have the concerns of citizens, retailers, businesses heard as this work goes forward.

The implementation of the town-approved actions will be spread out over many months, with information announced as each step is taken. It is also expected that the state will act on the issue of thin film and polystyrene food and drink containers. How important it is that when the state acts, Lee will already have local structures in place which will best serve our community.

The benefits to implementing the local policies will decrease potential health risks and will greatly reduce waste disposal and protect the environment. And it will give a gift to our future generations: the ability to live in a safer, cleaner and more sustainable Lee world, and the desire to continue to protect it. Surely, we each can come up with alternative ways to carry our groceries, line our waste baskets — ways to "bag it."

Please encourage your district representatives to study and support the proposals to be presented on the May 12 town meeting.

Zoe Dalheim, Lee


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