In his shameless attack on a group of concerned Quincy citizens (letters, January 23), Councilor Brian Palmucci accuses Quincy Climate Action Network of making up facts in our push to amend the city’s plastic bag ban, though he conveniently neglects to identify any made-up facts we have disseminated.
We suggest that the councilor check his own facts. For example, in his letter, at the city council meeting where the ban was passed, and in emails between the councilor and QCAN members, he has repeatedly asserted that QCAN members want an outright “ban” on paper shopping bags. In fact, we are calling for a modest charge on paper bags, of a kind that’s been enacted in Boston, Cambridge, and several whole states, including California, Oregon, Vermont, and Maine, as a way to encourage the adoption of reusable shopping bags. It’s a position we have argued in two recent letters to the Sun, numerous emails to the councilor, and an oral presentation during a city council forum that the councilor attended. Thus, we wonder why he persists in misrepresenting our position. Is he doing it in order to portray us as extremists, as he does in his letter to the Sun?
Further, without citing any source, the councilor writes in his letter that “paper bags … consume less than one-third of the energy to produce than its [sic] alternatives.” Back in October, we provided the councilor with the gold-standard study of the topic, by the UK Environment Agency (Http://bit.ly/ukbagstudy). If he went back and looked at that study, he would discover that he has his ratio backwards. In fact, the manufacture and use of paper bags causes four times the greenhouse gas pollution of single-use plastic bags, along with increased toxic emissions associated with the manufacture of paper. This stands to reason when you consider the energy expended in growing and harvesting trees, transporting wood to the paper mill, manufacturing paper, and trucking paper bags, which far outweigh the plastic alternative, to the retail outlet.
The UK study also shows that, contrary to Mr. Palmucci’s letter, heavy duty reusable shopping bags of the kind being sold for 10 cents each at the local Stop and Shop need be reused only once to help reduce greenhouse gas pollution (if the alternative is paper bags) and only three times (if the alternative is single-use plastic bags).
The councilor argues, with justice, that single use plastic shopping bags can severely harm wildlife, but we would ask him to consider the harm to wildlife being done by out-of-control climate change. Perhaps he hasn’t heard about the billion koalas, kangaroos, and other wild animals burned to death or starved in Australia in the last few months, just to cite a dramatic instance, or the unprecedented rate of species extinction we have seen in recent years. It may also not have occurred to him that harvesting trees to make paper bags tends to destroy wildlife habitat.
In short, we agree that single-use plastic bags ought to be banned, but if the ban only pushes Quincy shoppers to substitute paper bags for plastic, we will have traded one problem for another. Thus, QCAN continues to urge the council to add a 5 or 10 cent per bag charge to the current ban.
In QCAN’s seven-plus years of existence, we’ve both praised and criticized government actions according to their effect on climate. Mr. Palmucci, of course, is free to attack us in whatever terms he chooses, but we plan to continue speaking our minds.
Board Chair, Quincy Climate Action Network