Kathryn Williamson, Morgantown
A recent National Geographic magazine cover features an iceberg-looking shape in the ocean, but on closer inspection you can see it’s actually just a plastic bag. The message is clear, and the facts are even clearer.
There are about 9 million tons of plastic in the ocean. We aren’t sure how long it takes plastic to degrade, but it could be thousands or millions of years. In the meantime, ocean animals ingest “microplastics” that destroy their gut and prevent them from eating real food.
Five ocean “gyres” have trapped enough garbage and plastic to cover a land area equal to Texas, or maybe Russia, depending on different estimates. But none of this has to happen. More than 40 percent of plastics are used just once, and for most of these we can easily find alternatives.
What would it look like for Morgantown to take a stand against single-use plastic? Our individual action can go a long way. We can bring reusable water bottles with us when we go out, tote our groceries in reusable bags (or request paper bags when we forget), stop using plastic straws, use wax cloth instead of plastic wrap, etc.
But I think we can do even more. We can, collectively, as a city, ban plastic bags from stores and straws from restaurants, or at the very least charge extra for these conveniences.
This is not a revolutionary idea at all. Several cities have already implemented similar bans. Washington, D.C., taxes plastic bags, leading to an 85 percent reduction in plastic bag use. San Francisco and Seattle have taken even stricter measures and seen similar reductions in plastic bag use. India, Kenya, Chile, the United Kingdom, Australia and even China have implemented similar measures. We can, too.