Opinion: plastic bag ban stifles consumer choice

Returning to O’Hare from a recent trip to St. Louis, I expected to be stopped by the authorities any second. You see, I had contraband in my carryon. Small, lightweight, and folded inside one another, the items in question are no longer available at Target, CVS, or the Lakeshore East Mariano’s. This is why I feel the need to replenish my stockpile, gathering up lightweight, single-use plastic bags from the pile kept by my mother in her suburban garage.

As I unpacked my suitcase and placed a single-use plastic bag in the small trash can, I was reminded yet again just how ill-conceived Chicago’s now seven-month-old plastic bag ban seems to be.

Put forth as a bill by Ald. Joe Moreno and passed by a 36-10 vote in the city council, the law went into effect August 1, 2015, forbidding chain stores of 10,000 square feet or more from doling out single-use plastic bags. Smaller chain stores have until August 2016 to phase them out; small businesses and restaurants are exempt. Chicago is one of more than 100 U.S. cities to have banned the bags in recent years, in hopes of encouraging consumers to adopt reusable bags.

recycle-symbolNot only does this ban appear to be riddled with confusion, it infringes on the rights of businesses and consumers to choose how to transport their goods. This ban might also literally be making us sick to our stomachs. According to studies by Loma Linda University and the University of Arizona, reusable bags tested positive for E. coli, salmonella, and coliform bacteria. The largest problem comes from cross-contamination. By reusing a bag without sanitizing it between uses, which the studies found 97% of consumers do not do, foods are allowed to contaminate the bag which then cross-contaminates the next purchase. It is recommended that meat purchases be bagged separately in-you guessed it-plastic, before being placed into the reusable bags. Sanitizing reusable bags with chlorine bleach and regularly washing them in a washing machine, making sure they are thoroughly dried, is the best way to fight the bacteria.

Another aspect that’s galling about throwing plastic bags under the bus is that the light, strong, waterproof bags are so useful. Many consumers reuse plastic bags for other purposes, such as containing sweaty gym clothes, packing shoes in luggage, and picking up dog waste, to name just a few.

In the scheme of problems, plastic bags do not rank among the largest concerns that the city faces. Seven months into the ban, a post-bag society doesn’t seem that far off. A trip to Whole Foods, where I had purchased a half-dozen items without a reusable bag, found me facing the question, “Do you need a bag today?”

Oh, Chute

Trash talking is usually associated with sports players trading insults. The term takes on a new meaning when it comes to high-rise living. Some of the most common complaints I hear among my neighbors have to do with actual garbage.

Whether it’s the garbage chute, the garbage room, or rules and regulations surrounding garbage, there’s much ado about refuse.

We all know that living in a multi-story building has its ups and downs. As with many things in life, our inherent human nature is responsible for most of the complications. People can be selfish, lazy, sloppy, misinformed, inconsiderate, or just plain stupid. Particularly after the holidays, the desire to dispose of decorations, wrappings, and packaging can magnify these traits. Here is a sampling of what I have observed, which many New Eastside residents might find all too familiar.

Locked chutes. At one time or another, residents have experienced the disappointment of seeing the red light on their floor’s trash chute and the door stubbornly shut. Facing a crossroads, the options are to: either wait for the light to go off or drop the bags and flee, which leads to…

IMG_2562dTrash on the floor. In nine cases out of ten, the result of locked chutes. Management posts signs reading, “Please don’t leave garbage on the floor of the garbage chute room,” in hopes of deterring bad behavior. In buildings where the recycling and trash rooms are separate, bags full of recyclables wind up in trash rooms. Whether residents are unaware of their buildings’ recycling facilities or optimistic souls who believe in the existence of a trash fairy remains a topic for debate.

Putting large items down the chute. Pizza boxes, wads of hangers, and down comforters are known to cause clogged chutes. Other items boggle the mind. In one memorable instance, a box spring mattress was disassembled and thrown down the Aqua’s chute. Bemusement over who could do such a thing quickly turned to frustration, once it was learned that the chute would be non-operational for the two weeks (during Thanskgiving) that it would take to clear the blockage, order replacement parts, and complete the repairs. Building maintenance worked overtime, collecting garbage from each floor’s trash room.  While this story gets more exaggerated with each telling, the moral remains: when in doubt, consult your building’s management office. Other resources, such as Salvation Army monthly pickups and My Storage Suite services, can also help ensure communal harmony.

— Shanti Nagarkatti | Community Contributor

Path to happiness

Happiness is the way

By Ainsworth Thompson | Community Contributor

AinsFor many years I battled with myself about what makes me really happy and exactly what happiness is.  To me it seemed that happiness is the main objective of our existence on earth.

When I experience happiness it’s like I am achieving my purpose for being here. A bright and humble energy is emitted from my being, and I gravitate toward situations of peace, love and deeper understanding. My thoughts are clear and I feel balance in all facets of my life.  I envision my future with great optimism – free from fear and worry – and I view my life as glorious, successful, and free. As long as I maintain this state of existence, it seems as if I am achieving my life objective.

For many years I thought that I needed an external stimulus such as a great job, a fancy car or lots of friends to achieve this state of mind. Now I realize that happiness exists within me and I can feel happy all the time by changing the way I think about life.

It became clear to me that whatever I emitted from the inside would manifest itself on the outside. It was not the external stimulus that made me happy. Therefore, I try to maintain a happy state of mind by feeling good about myself and showing compassion to others.

Happiness is a state of existence that can be maintained by simply removing negative thoughts, words and actions from your life and replacing them with positive ones. Practice this and you will live a happy, prosperous, loving and fulfilling life.  In the words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”

The dangers of crossing Lake Shore Drive on foot

By Jon Cohn | Community Contributor

When you try to cross Lake Shore Drive (LSD) on foot at Monroe St., Jackson Blvd. or Congress Pkwy., the long wait at the light for your turn makes you feel a combination of anxious excitement and breathless anticipation.

Finally when it is your turn, the nerves and the rapid heartbeat of excitement while traversing LSD lies somewhere between jumping from an airplane at 10,000 feet and riding a motorcycle.  Weaving in and out of impatient pedestrians, while battling through crowds, makes the relief and exhilaration of finally getting to the other side almost tangible. It’s like a feeling of true accomplishment.

I spent some time at a few of these busy intersections recently on a particularly crowded weekend. Here is a sampling of what I saw, which many of our New Eastside residents are all too familiar with:

WALKINFO

What I miss about the New Eastside

By Ophelia Dodds | IMG_1189Community Contributor

Having recently moved back to England after a very happy four years in the New Eastside, my editor asked me to describe what I missed most about our wonderful neighborhood. My first thought was the easy access to wonderful theatres and restaurants. My second was Mariano’s, Millennium Park, the Crown Fountain, and the beautiful Lakeshore East Park.

However, when I paused to think, I realized that what really miss are the people of Lakeshore East. There is a well-known saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” believed to be an old African proverb. Nowhere is this more obvious than in New Eastside.

I trusted our doormen to look after my daughter while I was collecting a bike or bringing a car round or hailing a cab. I trusted the other mothers in the park to make sure she was behaving and to hug her if she was hurt. We knew the people (and dogs) in the elevator that we met each day, and these meetings taught my daughter how to interact politely with adults. This village of ours has educated and nurtured my daughter, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Much of Chicago doesn’t even know that the New Eastside exists as a neighborhood as we know it. For those who choose to live here, there are a variety of reasons for that choice such as the convenient downtown location with access to restaurants, theaters and shopping in addition to its proximity to Lake Michigan and all its beauty. But why do we stay? All of those reasons still count, but we stay for the people and the community.

We were all outraged at the theft of the pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. We all come together to bemoan drag racing around the park, noise pollution from parties and other community issues. We stick together and we care about where we live.

So what do I miss most? I miss the glint of sun on the lake in the morning. I miss chatting to my doormen. I miss Mariano’s grocery store and their amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. I miss the fireworks over the lake. I miss chatting to my neighbors in the elevator. I miss petting dogs in the park. I miss the beautiful sunsets. I miss Sunday movie morning at the AMC River East with friends. I miss our community.

I miss the extraordinary things about Lakeshore East. But most of all… I miss the ordinary things.

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