Northampton County Council member Tara Zrinski wants all county municipalities to ban the use of plastic straws and bags. She thinks the best way to make that happen is by having Northampton County Council adopt a non-binding, meaningless resolution. It was tabled last year, but she brought it up again at Council's January 24 meeting.
The arguments from the public were hardly what I'd call compelling. Bethlehem resident Peg Church spoke of a blue whale that had ingested 30 tons of plastic before going tets up. This is bullshit. I've read of a whale with 20 pounds of plastic, but there's a pretty big difference between 20 pounds and 30 tons. She also spoke of a sea turtle with a plastic stray lodged in its nose. Finally, she pointed out that in a recent trip to Scotland, she did not see one plastic bag. She does not know the answer, but "a resolution is as good as anything."
She was joined by a kayaker who complained about all the plastic he sees while paddling the Lehigh River. There was also a gentleman who for some reason discussed edible drinking bottles.
There are several problems with Zrinski's resolution. First, it was never vetted by a Council Committee, which is the norm. Second, it is essentially identical to one tabled in December. Zrinski dishonestly or mistakenly suggested her previous proposal was an ordinance. Third, it is nonbinding, meaning it means nothing. Fourth, no municipality I know of looks to Northampton County Council for guidance on anything. Fifth, the research cited in the resolution is flawed. Some of it, I kid you not, comes from a 10 year old's school project.
I agree that plastic pollution is a serious problem, but an unenforceable plastic straw ban is a joke mostly designed to make Zrinski and her followers feel like they've accomplished something while the world still goes to hell. They can pat themselves on the back while whales still die. What is a solution, here in the Lehigh Valley, is periodic sweeps along the waterways to pick up plastic. Open space money could be used for this and pay people with limited incomes, but we'd rather spend that money to preserve undevelopable swamps and cliffs.
Aside from Zrinski, I doubt any member of Council thinks this accomplishes anything. But it passed 6-2-1. The two No votes came from Matt Dietz and Peg Ferraro. John Cusick voted "present." The Democrats voted Yes, mostly because they fear a primary challenge from environmentalists.
Bill McGee was a bit miffed that Cusick voted "present." But his own vote was cowardly. A real ban, which is what Zrinski wants, would ruin small businesses. But McGee, like his fellow Democrats, is more interested in appeasing zealots than in doing what is in the best interests of the county.