I’m old enough to remember when there weren’t any. Now they’re common.
A few weeks ago at Milford Reservoir I saw one atop the tallest cottonwood around. On Monday I watched one sail a few yards from my fourth story window at The Eagle and watched it until it sailed from sight over downtown Wichita.
I wish I was writing about something beautiful and majestic like bald eagles or peregrine falcons. But no, it’s those danged plastic shopping bags that so litter Kansas. They’ve become one of my most nagging pet peeves.
Depending on what study you read online, it seems up to 1 trillion such bags are used annually worldwide, with about 100 billion discarded in America every year. It seems we get more than our share discarded in Kansas.
Going and coming on assignments one day last winter, when the landscape was barren of growing vegetation, I stopped counting at about 100 plastic bags, though some objects may have been pieces of other types of plastic. One tree near Wichita had eight bags in its branches, of three different colors.
Several foreign countries, including South Africa, have banned the bags as have scores of U.S. cities. The last I checked California is scheduled to vote on a statewide ban.
In the media, pro and anti-ban groups debate how much it does or doesn’t cost to clean up problems the bags may or may not bring to the environment or wildlife. Both cite studies that back their causes.
Some claim the paper bags that would replace plastic would do more harm to the environment because so many more trees would be killed. Others say stopping production of the plastic bags would save the world millions of barrels of oil, annually. One group says banning the bags cleans things up in a hurry. Others have studies that show such bags are a tiny part of the litter in the world and its oceans.
I’ll let smarter people debate those things, but there’s no debating that they’re a terrible eyesore here in Kansas. I’m tired of seeing them stuck in fences and trees as I drive the countryside. Trust me, it’s not the same when you’re watching whooping cranes at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and your spotting scope or telephone camera lens picks up several old plastic bags blowing in the wind.
I’m up in the air on the ban issue, but a proponent for better consumer responsibility. That starts with me.
I try to use fewer plastic bags, and have turned some in for recycling. Tired of my rants, Kathy bought me cloth bags for grocery shopping. Now, if I can only remember to take them inside the store.
Several times over the past few months I’ve taken a a few minutes away from a hunting or fishing trip to pick up plastics. It’s good exercise, and the place looks better when I leave than when I arrived.
Unfortunately, too often it looks as cluttered when I arrive the next time. But I’m not giving up.