Education needed before more bans

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 8:30pm

The Block Island Tourism Council and the Town Council are quite right to slow down on taking any more action on ordinances designed to ban more plastics from being used or distributed on the island.

We come to this with the absolute belief that plastics are a direct threat to marine wildlife and the health of our oceans. The junk that has been dumped into our water supply is almost mind-boggling in its destructiveness.

But the latest incarnation of this discussion, banning plastic straws, caused some level of frustration by the members of the Tourism Council. Calling the measures to ban balloons and single-use plastic bags “feel good measures,” they also decried the fact that there is no way to enforce these bans. Balloons are still coming to the island, and single-use plastic bags are probably just as ubiquitous despite the fact that they are not available here.

Members also said that the one or two manufacturers of paper straws in the country are years behind in meeting demand, meaning that if plastic straws were banned on Block Island for 2019, it would put those establishments that have not stopped using them voluntarily in a bind. There is also the question of just how much government intervention we want in our private and business lives.

We understand the need for baby steps, and these bans do send a positive message. But now that we have two bans in place, the proper boards and commissions need to create an educational plan for next year designed to prevent these products from getting to the island from the mainland.

There has been no followup, as the members of the council and  planning board said there would be. The island should educate our guests as to our environmental policies, and get those firmly established before we move on to the next ban.