Are Plastic Bags Sacking the
Eighty individuals gathered in
Smithfield to discuss an invasive and migratory species: the plastic
bag. HR CLEAN organized a regional conference, “Are Plastic Bags
Sacking the Environment?” to discuss the impacts of the plastic bags
on the environment. Government workers, citizens, recycling and
retail workers participated in the conference to brainstorm ideas on
innovative regional efforts to balance commerce, convenience and the
Turtles, fish, sharks, and other
aquatic life are endangered by plastic bags and particles every day.
Christina Trapani, Virginia Aquarium Stranding Team, spoke at the
conference. Her presentation showed slides of wildlife which had
ingested or become entangled in plastic bags.
Farmers are also impacted by
plastic bags. Littered bags become entangled in equipment, degrade
the quality of cotton crops, and kill livestock when ingested. A
regional group has been working for over a year to find a solution
to the problem. At the conference, the Plastic Bag Advisory Council
shared a Pilot Program they developed for Isle of Wight. The program
will focus on recycling and public education and will be implemented
once funding is received.
The conference generated
articles in the Daily Press, the Virginian-Pilot, and
the Smithfield Times.
Effects of Plastic Debris on Turtles and Marine Animals
Impact in Virginia: Impact on Agriculture
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Isle of Wight
is bagged; push is on to control plastic bags
Virginian-Pilot, Carolyn Shapiro, February 28, 2009
Legislation to ban plastic bags statewide died
this year, leaving the problem still littering the landscape.
Environmentalists, city recycling officials and
retail and waste industry representatives gathered Friday to answer
the question "Are Plastic Bags Sacking the Environment?" The summit
was sponsored by HR Clean, a regional environmental group that's
part of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.
Marine science experts described the suffering of
whales, dolphins and sea turtles that strand themselves on
Virginia's shores with plastic debris in their digestive systems.
Nathan O'Berry, an agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension of
Isle of Wight County, talked about the cost to cotton farmers from
lightweight sacks that get stuck in cotton stalks and contaminate
On Wednesday, O'Berry said, he drove a four -mile
stretch of Foursquare Road in Isle of Wight and found 63 plastic
shopping bags that had blown into farm fields. He collected them and
brought them in a box to the summit Friday.
"I'm not here to talk all bad about plastic bags,"
O'Berry, who specializes in crop and soil sciences, said as he
emptied out wads of white plastic in front of the audience at The
Smithfield Center. "I think they're very useful. I think they have a
place in the world."
Isle of Wight County has become ground zero in the
plastic-bag debate in Virginia since a county supervisor learned of
farmers' concerns and sought a ban last year.
Retailers rallied to fight the move, and the
General Assembly declined to pass legislation allowing the county to
institute a ban.
That led a group of business representatives and
local officials to form the Virginia Plastic Bag Coalition to find
ways to better control plastic-bag use. In the past year, the
coalition has developed a pilot program focusing on public education
to encourage schoolchildren, as well as adults, to recycle.
The coalition's retail members persuaded
legislators to withdraw bills this year that would have banned bags
The coalition now hopes to get state funding for
Isle of Wight's program and similar efforts in Alexandria and Henry
County, said Margaret Ballard, vice president of advocacy for Retail
Alliance, the trade group for Hampton Roads merchants, and its
legislative lobby arm.
"The problem is very challenging," Ballard said at
the summit Friday, acknowledging retailers' role. "We are a source
of the plastic-bag litter."