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Lifestyle

January 3, 2013

The problem with plastic bags

Film 'Bag It,' about the effect on the environment, to play in Beverly

BEVERLY — You can throw plastic bags away, but there is really no “away” where they can go.

“It might break down into smaller and smaller particles, but it never disappears,” said Estelle Rand, a member of the Beverly Solid Waste Management Committee.

The environmental impact of this reality is addressed by a documentary film, “Bag It,” which the committee is screening at the Cove Community Center in Beverly next Thursday.

“The shocking things are the health links, from plastic back to human health,” Rand said. “Even at a very surface level, how many times have you seen a plastic bag in a tree? It finds its way into the ocean. There’s a place in the ocean that’s about the size of Texas, and it’s full of plastic trash.”

The movie will be introduced by state Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead, who has introduced a bill to ban plastic bags throughout the state.

“Similar efforts have been very successful, and many of them come out of coastal communities,” Ehrlich said, “largely because of the things we love about plastic bags — they’re lightweight and inexpensive.

“Because they’re so lightweight, they often end up in trees, city drains and waterways. When they get into oceans, they cause harm to marine life and wash up on our shores.”

And because plastic bags are cheap, consumers have few reservations about throwing them away, Ehrlich said.

But her ban does acknowledge the convenience of these bags and would allow versions that are biodegradable, which are being developed.

“There’s a tremendous amount of support around this bill,” Ehrlich said. “I had many co-sponsors, 40 representatives and senators, and there’s a Senate version.”

Ehrlich said several communities have passed their own bans, including Brookline and — around 10 years ago — Nantucket, but a statewide law would create a “level playing field” that is better for retailers.

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