By Mssr. Lee Fou
For all the many reasons to stop using plastic bags, add this new one -The Death of Sandra Bland!
Bland was arrested during a traffic stop July 10 for failing to signal a lane change. The encounter apparently escalated after she refused to put out a cigarette, and she was arrested and jailed, the New York Times reports. Bland was still alive, three days later, when a guard offered her breakfast around 6:30 am. By 9 am, she was dead.
The case is apparently being investigated as a potential murder and will likely be turned over to a grand jury, but in the meantime, a sketchy timeline—partially supported by video—has emerged.
The details, via the Times:
A Waller County sheriff’s official described a timeline for the jail cell of the woman, Sandra Bland, that started early in the morning of July 13, when she refused a breakfast tray around 6:30 a.m., until a jailer found her hanging shortly after 9 a.m. For about 90 minutes during that period, there was no movement by jail officials in the hallway leading to her cell, according to a video that the authorities released from a camera inside the jail.
Capt. Brian Cantrell of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office said that Ms. Bland replied “I’m fine” when a jailer was conducting rounds shortly after 7 a.m. and later inquired about how to make a phone call. But shortly after 9 a.m., a female jailer saw Ms. Bland hanging in her cell and summoned help. Other officers and emergency medical personnel tried unsuccessfully to administer CPR.
Authorities also released a brief video clip of officers discovering Bland’s body Monday. Still, the evidence is far from conclusive: the surveillance cameras apparently covered only the hallway outside, so there’s no footage of Bland’s cell or cell door.
Cops say Bland committed suicide by hanging herself with a plastic bag, a conclusion her family says makes no sense.
No doubt there are many legal issues here which I am sure that others will write about, but I want to focus on one narrow topic – the continued used of plastic bags! If paper bags had been in use in the jail, this tragedy would never have happened. Or, if she was murdered, the murderers would have had to find a different manner to accomplish their ends. There is simply no reason to continue to use plastic bags. This article by Maggie New explains some of the problems with plastic:
Why Are Plastic Bags So Bad for the Environment?
Plastic bags used to be thought of as free, painless, no-brainer solutions to carry your groceries, and they even could be recycled as doggie-doo bags or bathroom trashcan liners. In recent years, even the most thoughtless of consumers caught on to the fact that there was more to the common plastic bag than meets the eye, if only for the fact that suddenly there is an array of non-plastic bags available at chain stores instead of the throwaway ones.
Plastic bags are from the same source as all plastic: crude oil. Like everything else manufactured from this non-renewable resource, it has two major drawbacks: manufacturing it emits considerable amounts of pollution, and the product is not biodegradable. In other words, it is difficult to produce, and nearly impossible to get rid of once produced. According to the Natural Environment website, 60 to 100 million barrels of oil are required to manufacture a year’s worth of plastic bags worldwide, and it takes approximately 400 years at least for a bag to biodegrade.
The impact of plastic bags on the environment is enormous. As of August 2010, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are being used each year worldwide. Approximately 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals die every year because they either mistake the bags for food or get strangled in them, says Natural Environment. In Australia, 50 million garbage bags end up as litter yearly, and the “plastic soup” patch floating in the Pacific Ocean is twice the size of the continental United States. It is roughly 80 percent plastic, according to The Independent, a British newspaper.
What exactly the impact of reusable bag usage in the U.S. is far from clear. Even though, according to the website Earth 911, reusing or recycling one ton of plastic means the equivalent of 11 barrels of oil are saved, the argument sounds hollow when you consider once the bags exist, they are here to stay. You can recycle them into anything you want, but ultimately, they will be discarded. Whether in the form of purses crocheted from Target plastic bags or as doggie-doo bags, plastic always remains plastic.
That will probably be the forgotten point in every future article about Sandra Bland. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of bloggers and pundits will beat the legalities to death. People will march chanting “Black Lives Matter.” But no one will give a second thought to the larger issues of pollution and global warming. But as the great Rahm Emanuel once said,
You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. (Rahm Emanuel)
That is the case here. I am not being cold or callous towards her death. I am just trying to make it count for something bigger than one human life. All the little sea turtles and sea birds who are choking to death on plastic, now have a human face – Sandra Bland! So while this issue is still in the public’s mind, let’s do a “Kate’s Law” type thing here, and work for “Sandra’s Law” – to outlaw the use of plastic bags!
Mssr. Lee Fou
FootNote: The Image is from an old DuPont ad.