BYOB, bring your own bags


Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Laura Nunez

Texas State boasts an established, environmentally friendly atmosphere even though the university aids in the distribution of single-use plastic bags. Wasteful plastic and eco-friendly do not mesh well. The university and the City of San Marcos should establish a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Single-use plastic bags are flimsy and non-biodegradable, typically used for groceries and take-out, as well as for collecting dust under the kitchen sink or cabinet. Plastic pollution has been harming oceans for years, but the damage continues to rise and add detriment to the global environment. Action needs to be taken to stop plastic waste, but since the plastic production industry leads the way in convenience, starting small is key.

Statistics report Americans use more than 100 billion plastic bags each year, which is more than 300 bags per person, per year. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but their afterlife is infinitely longer. As plastics become discarded, they clog sewage and storm drains and get found in the stomachs of over 100,000 marine creatures that die from plastic pollution each year.

The choice is clear: people should carry their own reusable bags.

Over 400 cities, counties and states in the U.S. have banned, taxed or limited single-use plastic bags. California passed a law in 2014 in which large retail stores were prohibited from providing single-use plastic carryout bags. A second measure, Proposition 65, was rejected by voters but would have created an environmental fund with the charging of 10-cents for single-use plastic. The concept of making society pay for choosing to abuse the environment is genius and effective.

Multiple cities that passed laws banning single-use plastic bags have reported a surge of public awareness on recycling and plastic pollution. Additionally, there were dramatic decreases in bag litter around the city waterways and creeks.

San Marcos is not on the list of cities that have implemented a plastic ban, but it should be, especially since the river flows through town and its species need to be protected from dangerous pollution. Texas, needs to join the environmental initiative because the time to act has never been more prominent.

Texas has not been negligent to the rise of banning plastic bags, but the mere mention of such progressive moves has not been received lightly by the masses. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that a ban on plastic bags in Laredo violated state law. The court has refused to hear similar cases since, which is an unjust and ignorant decision regarding the negative effects wastefulness adds to society.

The City of Austin was enforcing a plastic ban at the time but loosened the reins after the court ruling. San Marcos should make up the difference missing in the surrounding areas.

Specifically, Texas State needs to make the change, as its the largest entity in San Marcos. The bookstore and on-campus convenience stores should stop carrying and distributing single-use plastic bags to customers. Students should be bringing their own bags when they are going to shop or establishments can offer reusable bags as an alternative. Banning plastic bags will be an easy adjustment on campus since they are only distributed in limited locations.

Additionally, clubs and organizations could aid in the initiative by handing out reusable bags in The Quad or selling them for a small fee. The organizations could use the opportunity to market themselves and their events. If the ban is enforced, no one will be refused a chance to load up on reinforcements. Establishing an anti-plastic sentiment could become complicated, but the benefits would be reaped in the local environment and possibly the whole state, making the adjustment worth it.

People oftentimes eagerly claim they re-purpose their plastic bags. Although that might be true, these lightweight nightmares are often forgotten or thrown away and end up in oceans regardless. Earth is in danger, and stepping back to watch from the sidelines while the world is collapsing is not sufficient. Society can make small calculated differences in everyday lifestyles to help better the environment.

The young generations are starting to understand the gravity of their impact. Students are actively advocating for the use of metal straws over plastic and carrying their own reusable water bottles. Although often ridiculed for believing these small changes will make a difference, the only fools are the ones doing absolutely nothing. Plastic bag use should not be ignored in this dire time.

Texas State needs to ban single-use plastic bag distribution on campus and hopefully, San Marcos can follow. Enforcing this change will make a significant difference for the betterment of the student body and community.

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