Why plastic bag bans suck and are stupid.

in #informationwar5 years ago (edited)

Recently in my city there was an effort to ban plastic bags. I am not sure if it was successful or not but I do know it is a stupid idea. Stupid do-gooders have convinced themselves that they can save the planet somehow by banning plastic grocery bags. Plastic grocery bags are one of the greatest inventions known to man. What makes them great is they are so incredibly efficient. It takes so little energy, water and plastic to make them that stores just give them away. You can store hundreds of them in a small space. They are so cheap that homeless people can access as many as they need to put their poops in. So when they get banned one of the unintended consequences we see is human shit in the streets in places like San Francisco that have banned these bags. It has gotten so bad they developed an app to try to avoid stepping in human shit and places in CA have been having hepatitis outbreaks. Thanks plastic bag banning do-gooders! It must be worth stepping in human shit just to know that you were able to control your neighbors options for carrying groceries so they are not upsetting to your ignorant conceptions of what is good for the environment. Anyhow I read a pretty great article from NPR of all places that does a nice job of breaking down some of the environment impacts that various grocery bags have, spoiler alert, your organic cotton bags need to be reused 20,000 times to be as environmentally friendly as a disposable plastic bag.

image source

It was only about 40 years ago that plastic bags became standard at U.S. grocery stores. This also made them standard in sewers, landfills, rivers and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They clog drains and cause floods, litter landscapes and kill wildlife. The national movement to get rid of them is gaining steam — with more than 240 cities and counties passing laws that ban or tax them since 2007. New York recently became the second U.S. state to ban them. But these bans may be hurting the environment more than helping it.

University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor started studying bag regulations because it seemed as though every time she moved for a new job — from Washington, D.C., to California to Australia — bag restrictions were implemented shortly after. "Yeah, these policies might be following me," she jokes. Taylor recently published a study of bag regulations in California. It's a classic tale of unintended consequences.

Paper or plastic?

Before California banned plastic shopping bags statewide in late 2016, a wave of 139 California cities and counties implemented the policy themselves. Taylor and colleagues compared bag use in cities with bans with those without them. For six months, they spent weekends in grocery stores tallying the types of bags people carried out (she admits these weren't her wildest weekends). She also analyzed these stores' sales data.

Taylor found these bag bans did what they were supposed to: People in the cities with the bans used fewer plastic bags, which led to about 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says. This was particularly the case for small, 4-gallon bags, which saw a 120 percent increase in sales after bans went into effect.

chart of garbage bag sales after bag ban

Trash bags are thick and use more plastic than typical shopping bags. "So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year.

Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce nonbiodegradable litter.

Are tote bags killing us?

What about reusable cloth bags? We know die-hard public radio fans love them! They've got to be great, right?

Nope. They can be even worse.

A 2011 study by the U.K. government found a person would have to reuse a cotton tote bag 131 times before it was better for climate change than using a plastic grocery bag once. The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.

That said, the Danish government's estimate doesn't take into account the effects of bags littering land and sea, where plastic is clearly the worst offender.

Stop depressing me. What should we do?

The most environment-friendly way to carry groceries is to use the same bag over and over again. According to the Danish study, the best reusable ones are made from polyester or plastics like polypropylene. Those still have to be used dozens and dozens of times to be greener than plastic grocery bags, which have the smallest carbon footprint for a single use.

As for bag policies, Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking.

Taylor believes the recent legislation passed in New York is a bad version of the policy. It bans only plastic bags and gives free rein to using paper ones (counties have the option to impose a 5-cent fee on them). Taylor is concerned this will drive up paper use. The best policy, Taylor says, imposes a fee on both paper and plastic bags and encourages reuse.

This bag research makes public radio's love for tote bags awkward, doesn't it? It might be weird, though, if we started giving out plastic grocery bags


So next time some asshole says we need to ban plastic bags you can be the one to ask them, "What's wrong with you, do you hate the environment?!"

the commentary and photo editing are @funbobby51 original for @informationwar and @steemit the article is from NPR


Aldi's makes you buy whatever bag you are going to use or you can opt to use whatever cardboard box they put out in the area designated to bag your groceries. I guess that would be rather messy though for bigger retailers. I reuse all the plastic bags I bring home, it's just me and recycling also cuts down on the amount of trash so I put all my trash in them instead of buying trash bags. Our city incinerates our trash also so it doesn't go into a landfill.

I am still planning my Trump blog, I got it about half done but was gone helping a friend for a couple days and the mood to finish it hasn't struck since I've been back home.

I went to Aldi for the first time a couple of days ago and it was terrible, that was my first and last time. That's the thing the study showed, everyone reuses plastic grocery bags and when they don't have them they they buy much thicker plastic bags.

I never have a problem there. The store's usually clean, they have quality products at ten to thirty percent below other retailers. They don't offer everything a regular retailer does so for me it's more a stock up on basics store.

I was hoping to get some lemons but they only had them in bags and only two sad and moldy bags of lemons available. I picked up a few avocados.

I forgot, I just finished my people of Trump post so you can go take a gander at it...it's lengthy. lol

you should boost that one up a bit with the minnowbooster and smartsteem and tipu

I tend not to like that they bag their vegetables in multiples either, being single there's only so many green peppers, tomatoes you can eat before they go bad....but in your case they were already bad...lol...maybe your store is not as well run as ours here. Most of what I buy there is milk, eggs, tuna (because their chuck light tuna in a can is pretty chunky and cheap), small baby carrots, one pound bags of sliced lunch meat, condiments, potato's at holiday times because they are dirt cheap at around a buck thirty for ten pounds, hash browns because you can get twenty of them for the price of ten at other retailers...I have one picky grandson who loves those, olive oil, canned mushrooms, or other things they may have on sale or clearance. Like I stocked up on canned tomatoes a few weeks ago at thirty three cents a can. I don't tend to buy there bread to often because it tends to mold out to fast for some reason.

If I saw a deal in the flier that was appealing I might hit it up but it would have to be a pretty good deal

We pay for bags in California and I just take the cart to the car. We have the reusable bags, but we have hundreds of them now. I forget to to take them shopping so I’m screwed. I just hate shopping and all the bag shit.

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and after all that all the studies show that disposable bags are best! That sort of thing is why I can't live in CA. they are always thinking of ways to make things stupider and more expensive. I tried to refill my car's AC when I was there so I bought a can of refrigerant but then I had to buy a special adapter for the can that cost $20 and was required only in CA.

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