Sustainability theater


Good things, as they say, come to those who wait. Unfortunately, so do bad things.

You may recall that on last spring’s Annual Town Meeting warrant, there were a couple of articles aimed at expanding the town’s plastic bag ban and prohibiting certain types of food packaging.

These measures were sponsored by the same folks who successfully pushed through the original plastic bag ban a few years ago.

Back then, they assured us that it wasn’t really a plastic bag “ban,” because it only targeted “single-use, thin-film” bags. As costly as that original plastic bag ban was to local businesses, most merchants bit their tongues and went along with it.

But banning only one type of bag didn’t inflict nearly enough ruin on the merchant class to satisfy the carbon credit and compost crowd.

So, they were back last spring with two more Town Meeting articles designed to hamstring businesses a little more. But before that could happen, a virus from China provided an opportunity to destroy the entire nation’s economy!

All businesses and institutions, except those deemed “essential,” were shut down. People were ordered to stay home. Annual Town Meeting was postponed twice.

When it comes to wrecking businesses and the economy, a local ban on plastic bags and styrofoam can’t compete with a virus-inspired, commerce-crushing lockdown. Besides, it wouldn’t have been sporting to pile on when so many businesses were in danger of going under for good.

So, in a moment of weakness or sanity, the plastic prohibitionists decided not to go forward with their articles at last spring’s Town Meeting.

But that was then. This is now.

Over the last few months, businesses that managed to survive the forced shutdown have been allowed to re-open, albeit with severe restrictions and limitations. Most are walking a razor-thin tightrope, trying to avoid falling into the chasm of permanent closure or bankruptcy.

So, what better time than now to stick it to these shopkeepers, these petite bourgeoisie?

And so, at Saturday’s Regular Town Meeting, voters will be asked to support costly measures designed to further restrict what local businesses can offer their customers in the form of bags and packaging.

The sponsors acknowledge that passing these articles will result in higher prices for consumers.

“Businesses may have to raise prices to cover costs of alternative containers,” they admit, “but studies have shown that the price increase is minimal, amounting to less than 1 percent.”

Oh, “studies” have shown that? I feel better already. I’m sure local families with one or more unemployed breadwinners are reassured as well.

And so what if these measures are the straw that breaks the camel’s back for merchants already hanging on by a thread? What’s the loss of a few local businesses when the fate of the entire planet is at stake?

Even at Wakefield Town Meeting, we must think globally, right?

The very same people who insisted at last spring’s Town Meeting that it was critically important to hire an Economic Development Director as local businesses try to claw their way out of a hole, now want to throw another shovelful of dirt on top of them.

Articles 8 and 9 would not be pro-business in the best of times. The current timing could not be worse.

[This column originally appeared in the November 5, 2020 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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