To the Editor:
There is a picture that has accompanied news stories and Facebook posts this winter of an osprey with a plastic bag hooked around its wing, or neck, or both. This striking image has become a symbol for a proposed single-use plastic bag bylaw that goes to vote at town meetings this spring.
This “Bring Your Own Bag” bylaw gives us an opportunity to make a powerful statement. We are an Island. We are Islanders. We are surrounded and literally defined by the ocean.
But that ocean is stumbling under the weight of what we are dumping into it. Single-use plastic bags are always among the top items found in beach cleanups. There are 40,000 to 250,000 tons of plastic microparticles floating in the five “great garbage patches” of the world’s oceans. Plastic is now found in the fish we eat, and scientists estimate that 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested plastic. Are we, as a community, going to make a commitment to prioritize the natural environment, especially the ocean, that sustains us all?
Proposing this bylaw is not something that we have taken lightly. For the past 18 months we have talked to communities all over the country who have already passed and lived with bag bylaws. These communities range from small towns to large cities, some wealthy and some not, some with tourist economies and some without. Regardless of the differences, the stories are similar from each: The bag ban did not hurt businesses (whether mom-and-pop shops or international corporations), people began bringing reusable bags more often, and it became a source of pride for town residents. Often, once a ban is enacted in one place, the neighboring towns move to pass similar ordinances. This would not happen if people were watching their neighbors struggle under the weight of these laws.
Now, back to that osprey whose picture flanked all those plastic bag articles this winter. He was not just a stock photo pulled from the Internet. That bird is an Islander too, photographed two years ago during the local osprey monitoring work of Dave Kolb and Dick Jennings. If you don’t want to see our culture of convenience worn so shamefully, please go to town meeting. Vote for this change. We need to move on from disposables, carry our own reusable bags, and take responsibility for our waste, lest more wildlife and future generations of people end up carrying the weight for us.
Vineyard Conservation Society