I could not agree more with Ms. Poulson [“Clean up Prince George’s County,” Letters to the Editor, Feb. 27] that we should care not just about the interior of our own home, but about the community as a whole. The issue is litter. Perhaps in order to keep personal space litter-free, people throw it out the car window or off their property? An Alice Ferguson poll indicates that may be the case. Clearly this is an anti-community behavior.
But I differ with Ms. Poulson as to the solution. Why spend more scarce county resources cleaning up after these people? Why not use the power of the pocketbook?
Two years ago, Montgomery County imposed a small 5-cent fee on carryout paper and plastic disposable bags. This gave the bags value and changed shopper behavior. No more routinely taking bags for every item, no matter how small.
Our survey of 56 chain grocery stores in Montgomery and 46 in Prince George’s, recently completed in cooperation with the Prince George’s Group of the Sierra Club, found that reusable bags are seven times more likely to be used in Montgomery than in Prince George’s County. And nearly 60 percent of Montgomery shoppers forgo using disposable bags at all, choosing either to bring bags or go bagless. Our surveyors saw some impressive collections of reusable bags!
As a result, Montgomery County is enjoying a distinct decrease in plastic bag litter collected in stream cleanups. There is still abundant bottle and can litter, but the Friends of Sligo Creek, who actually count and categorize the trash they pick up, reported a decrease from 2,168 bags at their spring 2011 cleanup (pre-fee) to just 223 bags at their spring 2013 cleanup (post-fee). In the Northwest Branch, where I have coordinated cleanups for many years, new plastic bag litter is almost absent - except near the Prince George’s County border.
The pocketbook is a formidable force for improving behavior and preventing litter. I encourage Prince George’s County to try it.
Anne Ambler of Silver Spring is immediate past president of Neighbors of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River and coordinator of the shopper survey, Montgomery County.