A student-created bill to reduce the pollution stemming from plastic and paper bags from the Hilltop has made it to Capitol Hill, after it was introduced Thursday by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va).

Five students, Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13), Matthew Strom (COL ’10), Brian Lin (COL ’10), Mariel Reed (SFS ’10) and Toni Harrison (GRD) are currently enrolled in a course called Shaping National Science Policy, a semester-long tutorial that teaches students how to be lobbyists for the semester. The class was split up into three groups, one of which focused on vector-borne ailments in reference to climate change, the other on creating a bike-sharing program that would lower pollution and contribute to public health.

Kohnert-Yount’s group focused on reducing the consumption of single-use, disposable retail bags. Their resolution was introduced to Congress on April 22, and according to Environment and Energy Daily, “has great potential to get passed.”

The resolution, available to view on the Students for Responsible for Bag Policy Web site www.switchbags.org, encourages initiatives to reduce the use of paper and plastic bags. Content on the site emphasizes the degree to which bags can consume natural resources, increase waste production and contribute to the amount of litter created.

The resolution specifically references the amount of litter found in D.C.’s Anacostia River, where most pollutants are plastic bags. In the Los Angeles River, plastic bags make up over 43 percent of litter. Strom added that the 5-cent bag tax was a positive step, because it habituates consumers to reconsider their purchases without great financial burden.

The resolution specifically several goals. One goal is getting businesses to reduce the amount of paper and plastic bags they use by 40 percent over the next five years. Another goal is encouraging companies to endorse the consumption of reusable bags by giving incentives to consumers who do so.

“A number of regional and national companies already have these programs, which involve compensating or rewarding shoppers when they skip the disposable bag or use their own reusable bag. The list includes Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Publix, Kroger and IKEA,” Strom said. “We would like more businesses to be made aware of these programs and their benefits. They improve public image, increase consumer loyalty and ultimately allow businesses to purchase far fewer disposable bags than they used to.”

Kohnert-Yount said that the solution to the problem of single-use bags is easy, and that consumers only need to start carrying reusable bags.

The students who wrote the resolution do not expect overnight results, but said that implementing more environmentally conscious practices will be a process.

“We need to continue our work on advocacy and education so that consumers, businesses and communities are aware of the issue and [are] committed to reducing the use of disposable bags,” Kohnert-Yount said.

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