Who benefits when we reduce our waste?

When you think of trash, and the people who work to combat it, do you mostly think of environmentalists? It’s actually a concern to more people than you think!

– Farmers: Plastic bags and other trash get caught in their machinery, and can make livestock sick. The value of a cotton crop falls when plastic gets mixed in, and cleaning the trash out of a cotton gin is dangerous work! Check out this editorial from the Virginian-Pilot about waste-reduction support from the Virginia Farm Bureau.

– Boaters: Ever gotten a bag or fishing line caught around your outboard motor? Not very good for the motor, huh?

– Departments of Transportation: Cleaning up trash from the sides of our highways and byways costs a lot of money. In Maryland, it’s as much as $29 per bag of trash collected. The Roanoke Times reported that it’s time-consuming too:

[City Councilman Court] Rosen emphasized that the council’s support for consideration of the measure resulted from hearing from the city’s transportation division that picking up plastic bags along rights of way before mowing was taking more time than the actual mowing.

– Businesses: While many places still give us bags for our purchases for free, they do cost money. A typical grocery store pays 2 cents for each plastic bag, and 5 cents for each paper bag. If we take fewer bags, the business saves money!

– Landfills: They’re in the business of taking our trash, but some of our stuff they just don’t want. One landfill builder in Maryland says he has to put 40-foot-high fences around new landfills to keep plastic bags inside–otherwise, they catch the wind and just decorate the trees in the area. I’m sure that fence wasn’t cheap.

– Food pantries: They serve a vital role in the community, providing food and other services to those in need. But they operate on a shoestring and, just as for their clients, every little bit helps. Bread for the City, a food pantry in Washington, DC, began distributing groceries in reusable bags in 2010, thanks to donations from corporations and grocery stores like Safeway. They made a deal with their clients: Bring back the cloth bags next week, and we’ll give you an extra pound of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s been a smashing success. Not only are the families getting more fresh, healthy food, but BFC has saved thousands of dollars by not having to buy new bags every week.

Who else in our community benefits from less trash?

One Comment on “Who benefits when we reduce our waste?

  1. Thanks for the mention of Bread for the City's reusable bag drive. We do want to add one important note: as grateful as we are for the donations of reusable bags from individuals and corporations in the community, it isn't enough to provide for everyone we serve. In truth, a critical factor in our support for the Bag Bill was the promise from elected officials to dedicate some of the projected revenue to funding a supply of reusable bags that the city could provide to service agencies like ours. And we later had to actively hold those leaders accountable to ensure that they followed through on their promise. We did get a supply of bags, but it's not likely to continue. Other states, we believe, can do better.

    It's not that we regret supporting a bag tax, but we do think that the tax's supporters should make it a priority to blunt its regressive impact. Keep in mind that 5 or 10 cents at the cash register *is* felt by people whose food budget is already insufficient.

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