By Len Maniace
Let some sing about April in Paris, but give me springtime in New York. The glaciers have melted, revealing months of litter, cigarette butts and dog excrement on sidewalks. And the plastic-bag trees are in full bloom.
Spring – just before trees leaf out forming a barrier that discourages bags from getting tangled in branches – is the peak of plastic bags in New York trees.
It’s astonishing just how many plastic bags end up in trees along the city’s neighborhood shopping streets. Walking along 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, plenty of trees displayed one, two or three bags, but then we came across the rare specimen that accompanies this post.
A solution from City Hall?
Plastic-bag trees may become an endangered species in New York City, however. The City Council is considering a law that would require stores to charge 10 cents for each bag, plastic or paper. The idea is once bags have a financial value, shoppers will hold onto them for reuse. Or else won’t purchase them.
It’s a good market solution to an environmental problem, something that generally works better than relying on the public always doing the right thing. When one has to pay to pollute, that pollution magically is greatly diminished. In a market-oriented country, it would be nice – and more important – quite effective if the price of coal, petroleum and other carbon fuels included the cost of their environmental damage.
Instead that cost is spread around to the general public in higher costs. That basically amounts to a hidden subsidy for pollution-causing products, compared with products that don’t produce similar damage.
Plastic bags’ damage
Along with finding homes in trees, plastic bags float in waterways have been eaten by all manner of sea life, usually to ill effect. And there is the direct cost of disposing of the bags, which supporters say, costs the city $12 million annually.
Councilman Brad Lander, D-Brooklyn, who is backing the bill, told CBS News that New Yorkers use 9 billion plastic bags each year, a figure which if correct works out to a shocking 1,000 bags for every city resident.
In any case, whatever the number, just by walking down the street and looking at trees, it quickly becomes clear that too many plastic bags are loose in our environment. And that is not good.
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