Ever since January, single-use plastic bags have been banned in stores and restaurants in Ridgewood. It’s hard to say if this step will benefit Ridgewood in particular, but it is undeniable that actions like this will better the world as a whole. Around 70 towns or counties in New Jersey, including Glen Rock, Saddle Brook and Paramus, have adopted bans over the past year. Jersey City, Hoboken, Parsippany and Teaneck have also prohibited them.
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, and in the process contaminate the water and soil supply and get ingested by animals. This damages ecosystems, and the toxins eaten by animals can also make their way to humans. Furthermore, nearly 90% of the ocean’s debris is plastic, and Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animal deaths every year.
The reason why this new action could be so impactful is that it is a systemic change, and will force all members of the community to build new, more environmentally friendly habits. As policies like this get passed nationwide, Ridgewood’s situation will become the norm, and real change can come from it.
Moving into a new decade, the impacts of climate change have become harder to ignore. The average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere has increased by about 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and over half of that warming occured since the latter half of the 20th century. That may seem like a small amount, but it has already been linked to disastrous events like the recent Australian wildfires, earlier growing seasons, melting icebergs and shrinking lakes. As the climate continues to destabilize, we will see more displaced climate refugees, extreme weather disasters, and rising sea levels.
This plastic ban is not the first time the Ridgewood community has tried to reduce their plastic consumption. Within our own high school, the cafeteria has moved to paper straws, following the lead of many businesses and associations responding to the mass outrage against plastic straws back in 2018. Many cities worked to outright ban these straws altogether.
Today, it seems like the paper straw fad is over, with many RHS students left complaining about their soggy drinks over the turtles. However, it is important that this bag ban is different. The world needs action, not just a trend that will come and go. As global warming escalates, it demands the attention of a future generation. Hopefully Ridgewood’s initiative will do this.
Another way that RHS students can help with this cause is considering the environmental impact of their actions, and considering where their garbage goes. Currently there is no actual recycling system in place at RHS, despite what the bins in the hallways might make you think. There is plenty more to be done, and no clear way to do it, so students should come up with creative solutions that may one day spread beyond the RHS walls or Ridgewood borders.
Graphic: Ariya Patel