We want to say one word to describe an issue for next year’s Legislature. Just one word. Are you listening?
OK, OK, the discussion might not be as comical as that famous scene from the movie “The Graduate,” but it will be an important one. Lawmakers in Washington — and Oregon — are likely to consider the banning of plastic grocery bags.
The need for such a discussion is becoming increasingly obvious. About 2 billion plastic grocery bags are used in Washington each year, and only 5 percent of those eventually end up in recycling bins at the stores. The rest contribute to a growing global environmental problem.
According to a 2015 study published in Science magazine, about 4.8 million metric tons of plastic waste finds its way into the world’s oceans each year. Scientists predict that by 2050, ocean plastics will cumulatively outweigh marine life, and evidence of this can be found in garbage patches formed by circular currents. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, made mostly of plastics in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, covers an area about twice the size of Texas.
While that is the visible part of the problem, nearly all plastic waste breaks down into microplastics that are not biodegradable and sink to the bottom. From there they are ingested by marine animals and get into the food chain through seafood. Researchers in Europe found that most of the humans they studied have plastics in their stool samples; we’re guessing that is not healthy for the digestive system.