Gov. Quinns’ veto of plastic bag bill a good idea; must improve waste management

As environmentalists applaud Gov. Pat Quinn for recently vetoing a bill that most labeled as too weak an attempt to reduce waste from plastic bags, they should remember to keep their signs and megaphones close.

At the end of last month, Quinn vetoed a proposed law that would have required plastic bag manufacturers to set up recycling programs and increase recycling rates by 12 percent by 2015 and eventually aim to make bags out of at least 30 percent recycled content. The bill also would have blocked municipalities from setting up their own bans.

The law was seen by many environmentalists as not ambitious enough and hindering municipalities that wished to be more proactive. Plastic bag manufacturers, on the other hand, supported the bill.

Many cities across the nation have already passed bans, including Los Angeles and Seattle. Several European countries tax consumers for use of plastic bags when they purchase items from retailers.

Trying to enforce such restraints on retailers could prove futile. During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing attempted to limit the use of bags in the city to reduce the pollution and waste but was unable to fully enforce the law in open-air markets, where consumers purchase items such as fresh meat and vegetables.

Whether it’s a ban or a tax, plastic bag manufacturers tend to disagree with this kind of legislation across the board. They argue that plastic bags are sustainable and that it’s simply the way they are disposed of that poses most environmental problems.

Finding a way to reduce or eliminate plastic bag waste, despite the protests of manufacturers, is growing more important. They clog waterways, get stuck in fences and damage the equipment and machinery used in landfills when they make their way into vital moving parts.

Although the bill was based on good intentions, Quinn’s veto was the right move. By allowing municipalities to create their own efficient methods of eliminating or reducing plastic bag waste, the state will be better off. This will allow local recycling programs that are better-suited to take on the waste problem across the state.

Additionally, to see such a young girl — 13-year-old Abby Goldberg— find enough courage within herself to try to effect a change in her community and state by starting a petition is admirable. This veto should not quash any attempts to try to find a better solution, however. Her initiative should serve as a model for those who want to create any kind of positive change in their community.

While the veto may have been a smart move because Quinn did not cause the state to make a move on something that many municipalities and environmentalists were against, municipalities need to start figuring out how they can reduce the plastic bag waste.