Recycling

A proposed 16-cent tax on each paper or plastic bag used at a grocery story has the potential to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

Lawrence certainly appears to succeed at seeming hip and progressive. We love parades, we love rallies and we love refusing plastic straws at restaurants.

So with the Lawrence Sustainability Advisory Board’s proposal of a tax on disposable grocery bags, we’re given a chance to put our money where our mouth is.

Last week, the Board proposed a blanket 16-cent tax for each paper or plastic bag used at a grocery store in the city of Lawrence. This is a model used by Seattle; Chicago; and Washington, D.C.; among other large cities around the country.

In Chicago, the 7-cent version of this tax was implemented at the beginning of 2017. Since then, the city saw the proportion of citizens using plastic bags drop from 80% to 54%.

We all know the dangers plastic poses to the environment, but it seems like there’s single-use plastic at every turn. Lawrence residents alone consume an estimated 30 million plastic bags every year, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only about 5% of single-use bags are recycled. 

In the modern political age, it’s easy to be consumed by helplessness. What can a single person do to change the course of the world? And how do we combat the biggest threat to our generation — climate change? 

With a presidential administration that seems fully and completely set on ruining our chances at saving the planet — and ourselves — we’re failing to reach even the most basic of global agreements. Over the last three years, the Environmental “Protection” Agency has rolled back dozens of air, water and waste pollution regulations that were nowhere close to as strong as we needed them to be. 

The secret ingredient in this whole disastrous situation is smaller than you think — that is, small governing bodies. The power of local and state governments to make big changes is often wrongly overlooked. 

Climate change is overwhelming enough without the added pressure of an administration in the pockets of big oil. The only good part? We don’t need anyone’s permission to make our own policies here in Lawrence. Let’s pressure our city commission to take climate change into consideration, starting with this tax on single-use bags.

16 cents may seem inconsequential, but it’s just enough to make Lawrence consumers to reconsider their carbon footprints. Our small change can make a big impact.

Meredith Shaheed is a Junior from Lawrence majoring in environmental studies, political science, and history.