Much like the swirling plastic bags themselves, debate over ways to rein in the litter has gone in different directions.

And the plastic bags continue to dot the landscape.

More than a year ago, the Garden City Commission asked the city's environmental advisory board to make recommendations on how to minimize the impact of plastic bags that, after holding store-bought items for mere minutes, often get tossed aside and end up clinging to trees and fences, or clogging drains.

A community survey revealed the obvious in that most citizens considered the plastic bags a trash nuisance and bad for the environment.

That led the advisory board to recommend education to curb the trash.

More recently, though, Finney County Commissioner Larry Jones went another way in floating the notion of banning retail stores from issuing plastic shopping bags.

While that may seem simple enough, it's worth noting that San Francisco the first city in the nation to ban plastic bags hasn't seen a decrease in litter. That's really no surprise, though, considering the ordinance did nothing to alter consumers' throwaway behavior.

That's the key: Consumer education that encourages recycling and the use of reusable bags offers the better path.

Locally, there are ways to reduce litter, including one that would encourage in-home recycling: a curbside recycling program.

Short of that, adding more recycling bins around town and better publicizing their locations would help.

Consumers also need to understand the benefits of recycling. When it comes to plastic bags, for example, they should know where that trash ends up.

Some places arrange for plastic bags to be sent to manufacturing plants that make plastic playground equipment and outdoor decks. If more consumers knew trash could be turned into good stuff, they might be more interested in recycling.

Of course, stores always could do more to promote reusable cloth bag use over plastic and paper bags. (Like plastic bags, paper bags also tax the environment. Ban plastic bags for environmental reasons, and you should ban paper bags, as well.)

Plus, the reusable bags are sturdier than plastic or paper, and have handles that make them easier to carry. What's not to like?

As for those determined to choose plastic bags, they should at least use them more than once.

Plastic store bags make good small trash can liners, and even are needed at Garden City's dog park, where people use them to pick up after their pets.

With many ways to tackle trash, education can indeed make a difference.

For now, a number of local retailers that generate most of the plastic bags in question offer the reusable bags and plan to phase out their plastic shopping bag waste. They should be eager to work with local government in getting the word out on more ways to lessen the litter.

Of course, The Telegram has to count itself among businesses putting their product in plastic bags. Although it doesn't happen every day in a mostly dry region, we do encourage carriers to bag newspapers if there's a chance of rain or snow.

Like the big-box stores, smaller businesses also need to pursue environmentally-friendly alternatives.

After all, every little bit helps.

And if more people did just a little especially in recycling more trash it would pay off in a community that becomes cleaner by the day.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at