This year, I had the opportunity to work with 125 environmental science students. As we've learned about landfills and municipal solid waste, we've also learned about the biodegradability of different materials.
When items go to our landfill, microorganisms help decompose the items. A plastic bag is not as biodegradable as a paper one.
For years we've separated our trash at the landfill with an area for yard waste. But the leaves and grass clippings were encased in plastic bags; so it took even longer for the yard waste to decompose.
The change to paper bags is a step in a positive environmental direction because decomposition can occur more quickly.
Yes, it is going to be inconvenient at first trying to locate the bags, and they may cost more than plastic. However, we cannot continue to talk the environmental talk without walking the environmental walk.
One of the continuing topics of discussion in our class had been the difference between what we think is the right thing to do for the environment, and actually doing it. Now our community has the chance to model for our children that we are committed to improving our environment. These students will be watching us to see how we respond to this change. If we gripe and grumble and refuse to change, then what message are we sending our students?
Switching to paper bags will help improve the quality of our landfill. But if you really truly don't want to use paper bags, we have a suggestion for you: Build a compost bin in your back yard.
You won't have grass clippings and leaves to go in the bags; you'll be making your own rich soil instead!
Kathy Pearson, Augusta
(Editor's note: The writer is a science instructor at the Academy of Richmond County.)