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Letter: Back efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags

Back efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags

I am writing in support of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s proposed plastic bag ban.

My research is focused upon plastic pollution within the Great Lakes, most well-known for the discovery of microbeads within our waterways, but microbeads are not the only type of plastic pollution we find. We find plastics of all shapes and sizes and types, the vast majority of which are incredibly small particles less than 1 millimeter in size. When plastics get to be this small, identifying the source of the plastic gets to be extremely difficult (if not impossible). As such, quantifying exactly how much of the plastic pollution we find that can be attributed specifically to plastic bags is not feasible, but given the prominence of plastic bags in our society and our environment, it is doubtful that it is a negligible.

In addition to our work in the open waters of the Great Lakes, we have examined 25 species of fish, largely from Lake Erie, and found the same microplastics that we see in the water within every species of fish. The perils of plastic are not so much the plastic itself as the tendency of this material to break into ever smaller pieces, never biodegrading back to its elements, absorbing toxic chemicals along the way, before being ingested by various organisms, moving those toxins into the food chain and ultimately into us.

I urge the Erie County legislators, and all the people they represent, to support any and all legislation aimed at reducing the use of plastic bags.

Sherri A. Mason, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry

SUNY Fredonia