Students debate plastic bag ban

This quarter the second through sixth graders researched the plastic bag ban issue (Ordinance 12-36) and then held a class debate. We read past community newspaper articles and Internet articles about plastic bag bans elsewhere and paper versus plastic articles. We looked for pros and cons and voted. Our class vote was 11 pro (in support of the ordinance) and 15 con (against the ordinance).  
People who were pro said that plastic bags kill animals when they swallow them or get them wrapped around their bodies. They are bad for the environment. They make more marine debris and fill up the dump. It would be better for our community if there were fewer plastic bags. Plastics are made from petroleum, so using less plastic bags would save oil resources. Plastic bags will still be allowed for waste, newspapers, bulk items and prescriptions. Only plastic bags for carry out items will be banned.  
Some arguments on the con side were: If there are no plastic bags we will go back to using paper bags, which use five times as much petroleum to make and transport than plastic and kill more trees. If we do ban a certain bag, it should be paper. The ordinance is difficult to understand.  What if people don’t know about the ban, like tourists or our visiting relatives? Who will fine the people who use plastic bags? People can’t afford to pay a fine. Can’t we just say, “Don’t take plastic bags to the beach,” to save the animals? Some people don’t have reusable bags. Why can’t we find some new kind of material to make bags with that isn’t plastic or paper and is good for the environment, like rice paper, grass baskets, loose sticks or kelp?  
We learned that debate can help us to learn about how people can cooperate. We learned to look at  other people’s perspectives and how to research to learn more about community topics.
Second-sixth graders at Fireweed Academy
 in Mindy Hunter’s Community Theme Group