Throw it away? Where is away?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sometimes you see a movie that’s so good, you have to tell someone about it.
That was the case some time ago when a group of friends who call themselves The Hillbilly Hiking Club saw “Bag It.”
The “bag” in the documentary’s title is the ubiquitous plastic bag — the kind of bag the store gives you to carry home groceries, clothes, toys and pretty much anything that will fit in a bag. That includes newspapers.
In an entertaining and informative way, “Bag It” presents a strong case for avoiding and even banning plastic bags. And it goes on to question the proliferation of all plastic products we use once and toss away — plastics that may be affecting our environment and our own health.
“Just because plastic is disposable doesn’t mean it goes away,” says narrator Jeb Berrier — a kinder, gentler Michael Moore.
“After all, where is away?

“There is no away.”
One of the Hillbilly Hikers, Whitey Harwood, insisted I see the documentary. When I finally did, I understood why he was so determined to spread the word far and wide.
You see these plastic bags skittering along roadsides and snagged in trees. You may have a cupboard full of them at home. You may even recycle them religiously.
What you may not see — until you watch “Bag It” — are the virtual flotillas of plastic bags and other pieces of plastic that accumulate in the oceans. You may overlook the bits of plastic that fish and birds mistake for food.
And you may not think about the plastic in everything from drink cups to shower curtains.
So I wrote a brief piece about “Bag It” that was in last Sunday’s paper, kicking off a column named “ICYMI Movies” — that’s In Case You Missed It.

In response, Whitey delivered a note last week from the Hillbilly Hikers that’s worth sharing. Here goes:
“We would like to thank Elizabeth Cook for finally putting a write-up in the Sunday paper about the movie, ‘Bag It.’ It was on page 3E (ICYMI). It should be on page 1A.
“Here goes our write-up about it.
“Release date: We watched it over a year ago.
“Rated: All five of us gave it a 10.
“Suitable for: It should be watched by every human on Earth and all the Rowan County commissioners.
Do not use them! Get the stores to get rid of ’em. Get ’em out of your life.
“FYI: You can go on living without plastic bags and plastic water bottles. Drink from the sink!
“Length: Worth every minute.

“Studio: We didn’t understand what studio meant. But we watched it at home. Some rented it, some borrowed it and one saw it on public TV. Just find it and watch it.
“Available: Only at the East Branch of Rowan Public Library. (What a shame.) It should be at all three branches, in every school, in all churches and all community organizations.
“To learn more: Contact the Hillbilly Hiking Club at 704-431-4280. We watched it. We discussed it. We loved it. We don’t do plastic bags or plastic water bottles anymore.”
The letter bore the names of Whitey Harwood, Wormy Chewning, Charlie Whitehead, Dick Brisbin and Jeff Harwood.
Since seeing “Bag It,” I’ve done a better job of remembering my reusable grocery bags. It’s hard to go cold turkey on single-use plastic, though. It’s in the packaging on just about anything, sometimes so thoroughly protecting the product that you almost need a chain saw to get through it.
Where does that stuff go?

Several cities have banned plastic bags, and corporate America is paying attention. McDonald’s, which began phased out foam hamburger boxes in the 1990s, recently confirmed plans to replace its foam coffee cups with paper cups. Dunkin Donuts is moving in the same direction.
The American Chemistry Council points out that many stores offer plastic bag drop-off programs that allow consumers to return used bags and product wraps to be recycled. All clean bags labeled #2 (HDPE) or #4 (LLDPE) are recyclable.
Plastic is here to stay. It’s cheap, lightweight and versatile. But does it have to be everywhere? In everything? The Hillbilly Hikers Club and I recommend you see “Bag It” and think it over. As the club said, it’s “worth every minute.”
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.