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Volume 15, Issue 38 ~ September 20 - September 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor

We welcome your opinions and letters – with name and address. We will edit when necessary. Include your name, address and phone number for verification. Mail them to Bay Weekly, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 • E-mail them to or submit your letters on line, click here

Do the Math on Plastic Bags

Dear Bay Weekly:

Thank you for “Bag It,” Carrie Madren’s excellent and balanced story about the proposed ban on plastic checkout bags in Annapolis. Briefly, the argument can be simplified to paper or plastic, but in real life things are always a lot more complicated than they seem.

I want to address a couple of allegations in your cover story [Vol. xv, No. 37: Sept. 13] and the smaller inside article, “Paper Versus Plastic.”

First, according to the article, opponents of the ban say that plastic is better for the environment than paper. A representative of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division says that making plastic bags uses less water and requires less energy than making paper bags, etc.

In fact, these claims are based on a 17-year-old study prepared for the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division — and a 20-year-old study now said to be “lost” — as well as other research self-generated by the plastics industry. The 17-year-old study doesn’t even acknowledge the generation of huge amounts of carbon dioxide (the primary cause of global warming) involved in the plastic bag manufacturing process.

A much more recent 2000 Swedish study conducted by CIT Ekologik found plastic much more damaging to the environment than paper! That study does meet international and national scientific standards.

Second, there is a claim by opponents of the ban that it would be incredibly costly to retailers, suggesting that a store the size of Graul’s Supermarket would pay an additional $600,000 a year for 100 percent recycled paper bags. Do the math. At six cents per bag (their number, not mine) that adds up to 10 million bags a year being dispensed by the store: 27,000 a day, every day of the year!

Since they’re talking $600,000 additional, you’ve got to add in the two cents per plastic bag that’s already being spent and that now will be spent on paper bags. Oops, that means another 9,000 bags: 36,000 a day being used! With those numbers, the store aisles would be backed up like Rt. 50 at the Bay Bridge on Labor Day weekend! Come on.

Finally, the shorter of the two articles, “Paper Versus Plastic,” includes information from a 1990 Franklin Associates study. You should know that the study’s findings about harm to the atmosphere and water were derived by methods not in compliance with international and national scientific standards, and thus are simply not credible.

Franklin Associates has requested that the summed atmospheric and waterborne emissions data in their report, as reported by the plastics industry, not be used.

This entire discussion should only focus on the reason the plastic bag ban was proposed, and that is the protection of our beloved Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Plastic bags do great harm to our environment; paper, and especially reusable canvas or string bags, prevent damage.

Should we take this modest step to help the Bay, or should we just keep on talking about doing something, as we have for decades?

It’s a simple lifestyle change that’s required. Let’s bag the plastic checkout bag!

–Sam Shropshire, Annapolis

Editor’s note: Alderman Shropshire is the author of the city’s proposed ban on plastic checkout bags.


Department of Corrections

Dove Breasts, Revised

Our fraction-twisting computer Hal revised Dennis Doyle’s recipe for doves, printed in his Sporting Life column in the issue of Sept. 13 (Vol. xv, No. 37).

If you’ve clipped this recipe, please replace it with this update:

In the marinade: use one-fourth cup olive oil

In the skillet: use one-eighth cup butter melted in one-eighth cup olive oil

In the braising: add one-half cup white wine.

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