Plastic bags area blight to our views

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Plastic shopping bags are a blight on the neighborhood. All trash is ugly, but plastic bags stand out because every time the wind blows, and that’s regularly here in New Mexico, their degenerate presence is broadcast through the landscape.
They make me think of some kind of industrial jellyfish of the atmosphere, and the way these discarded shopping sacks billow about  as if they are natural phenomena like pollen or cottonwood fluff. But they’re not.
Plastic bags get caught in trees, stuck on cactus, trapped in doorways and hung up on barbed wire fences.
The wind sends them flying across highways and neighborhood streets.
They know no boundaries and can be found in gated communities as well as urban ghettos. They mar the landscape wherever they go and I hate them.
I’ve seen them take flight from garbage trucks and the back of pick up trucks. The bags tumble around parking lots, playgrounds and recreation parks.
The other day I saw a group of flowering staghorn cholla and prickly pear cactuses offering such a lovely sight, but no, plastic bags were stuck to the cactus spines stealing their beauty. Grrrrrr!
Traveling south of Isleta Pueblo on Interstate 25, I’ve seen cattle eating plastic bags snagged on the barbed wire. I wonder, are we eating plastics chemicals in our burgers?
Even when animals die after ingesting bags, the plastic re-enters the environment and continues to threaten wildlife.
I’ve seen photographs and documentaries about islands built from accumulated plastic bags and bottles.
In July, a young male sperm whale was beached on a northern island in the Netherlands. He was found to have plastic in his stomach.
Plastic can’t be digested, so whales starve when they have a belly full of plastic or die from intestinal obstruction.
In March, according to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society website, a sperm whale washed up on Spain’s southern coast with intestinal blockage from swallowing 37 pounds of plastic, which included plastic bags.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of reports about ocean fish and sea birds dying from guts full of plastic bags.
A June 2006, United Nations Environmental Program report estimated that there is an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic debris floating on or near the surface of every square mile of ocean.
How many of these plastic menaces litter the bottom and beaches of Elephant Butte, Cochiti Lake or gather on the banks of the Rio Grande?
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
According to the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World report, some four to five trillion plastic bags were produced globally in 2002. That includes large trash bags as well as the thin grocery bags I’m talking about.
Roughly 80 percent of those bags were used in North America and Western Europe.
Every year, Americans reportedly “throw away” 100 billion plastic grocery bags. At least 12 million barrels of oil are used in their manufacture.
According to the EPA, 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2012, and in the category of plastics that includes bags, sacks and wraps, only about 12 percent were recycled.
Let’s get rid of “disposable” shopping bags. They’re not disposable anyway. There is no “away” to throw trash to. What we throw away stays with us in the ground, water and air, landscape, streets and landfills.
I recycle my plastic bags, but it bothers me that they end up in landfills and don’t decompose.
Santa Fe has banned the use of plastic bags. I think California has banned them, too.
I am diligently working to end my plastic bag dependence. I’ve bought several re-usable store bags, and I’m working hard to remember to get them out of the trunk when I go shopping. I forget a lot, but I’m determined.
I think we should eliminate plastic bags altogether, and don’t get me started on packaging!


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.