Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Plastic Bag Bans - Hurting the Environment and Making People Sicker

New York state joined California in banning plastic shopping bags, trying to force shoppers to use those oh-so-fashionable cloth bags all the trendy people are using.  They become only the second state to legislate this silliness.  Hans Bader, writing in Liberty Unyielding brings the story, starting off with some world class snark.
As Daniel Frank sarcastically notes, “Reusable tote bags” can “cause food poisoning but at least they’re worse for the environment than plastic bags.” He cites Jon Passantino of BuzzFeed News, who observes, “Those cotton tote bags that are so trendy right now have to be used *131 times* before it has a smaller climate impact than a plastic bag used only once.”
Plastic bags make up somewhere between 0.5 and 1.0 % of the waste stream, depending on whose data you look at.  To eliminate that 1%, the trade off is taking your plastic grocery bags to a recycling place (probably near the front door of your grocery store) or buying and maintaining the cloth bags - which means washing them and disinfecting them after every use.  Naturally, companies like ChicoBag want you to buy their product instead of using plastic bags, and as part of pushing for that have committed some rather unsettling crimes. The industry trade group sued ChicoBag.
That was illustrated by a 2011 legal settlement between plastic bag makers and an importer of reusable bags, ChicoBag. The plastic bag makers sued ChicoBag for its use of false claims about the recycling rate and environmental impacts of plastic grocery bags in its promotional materials. (Those false claims are also the basis for municipal bans and taxes on plastic bags.) Under that settlement, ChicoBag was required to discontinue its use of its counterfeit EPA website and make corrections to its deceptive marketing claims, which had included sharing falsified government documents with schoolchildren. It was also required to disclose to consumers on its website that reusable bags in fact need to be washed.  [Bold added - SiG]

Reusable bags “are a breeding ground for bacteria and pose public health risks — food poisoning, skin infections such as bacterial boils, allergic reactions, triggering of asthma attacks, and ear infections,” noted a 2009 report.  Harmful bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and fecal coliform thrive in reusable bags unless they are washed after each use, according to an August 2011 peer-reviewed study, “Assessment of the Potential for Cross-contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags.” [ Note: dead link]
Central to the claims of the anti-plastic bag companies and organizations is that plastic bags are dangerous in the environment.  When you consider that the United States is responsible for about one percent of plastic waste entering the oceans, and plastic bags are less than 1% of that 1%, we start seeing how small the problem actually is, yet they're willing to make people sick over them.  The other argument is that plastics persist in the environment for long periods.  Que the ominous claims of the Great Pacific Garbage patch, more accurately but less spectacularly known as that "spot with a higher density of partially biodegraded micro plastics". 
Among the inaccurate claims that ChicoBag could no longer make after the settlement is one that contrasted the environmental impact of plastic versus reusable bags. Contrary to ChicoBag’s previous claims, a study done for the U.K. Environmental Agency showed it would take 7.5 years of using the same cloth bag (393 uses, assuming one grocery trip per week) to make it a better option than a plastic bag reused three times. See “Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags,” Executive Summary, 2nd page. As an earlier report on the subject noted (see p. 60):
[A]ny decision to ban traditional polyethylene plastic grocery bags in favor of bags made from alternative materials (compostable plastic or recycled paper) will be counterproductive and result in a significant increase in environmental impacts across a number of categories from global warming effects to the use of precious potable water resources. … [T]he standard polyethylene grocery bag has significantly lower environmental impacts than a 30% recycled content paper bag and a compostable plastic bag.
As the UK Environmental Agency pointed out in July 2011, a “cotton bag has a greater [harmful environmental] impact than the conventional [plastic] bag in seven of the nine impact categories even when used 173 times. … The impact was considerably larger in categories such as acidification and aquatic & terrestrial ecotoxicity due to the energy used to produce cotton yarn and the fertilisers used during the growth of the cotton” (see p. 60). Similarly, “Starch-polyester blend bags have a higher global warming potential and abiotic depletion than conventional polymer bags, due both to the increased weight of material in a bag and higher material production impacts” (see Executive Summary).
Unfortunately, I'm unable to look at any link in the last three paragraphs to check them for more details. 

Image Credit: Pixabay


  1. Stupid liberal Gainesville, FL city council enacted a bag ban, now coming July 7th or so, because, as one city council person said, "Plastic bags are choking the ocean."

    Problem is that Gainesville, FL dumps all their garbage into a landfill, which is about 150'+ above sea level. So if our bags are ending up in the ocean, then we've had one heck of a rapid rise in sea level.

    So, because we (the people living in Gainesville, FL) are, apparently, too fracking STUPID to use 'reusable' bags 'For Teh Environment and teh Chilrenz' the rulers of said Gainesville, FL enacted, like all good socialist leaders and commissars, a rule to screw us all.

    Love the climate, love some things about this place, but, dang it, people...

    1. Let me get this straight: you're having a plastic bag ban, but you can't use the 'reusable' cloth bags either? So what are the stores going to use? Going back to brown paper bags?

      I only go through there now and then. I think we've stopped for a lunch once, but have spent no time in the city.

    2. Oh, we can use the cloth bags, but why? I resent that the cloth bags are larger and dirtier. I was trying to get the point across that the leaders of this gulag deem us too stupid to use reusable bags, so they drop this on us.

      I grew up, along with a whole lot of people, in the days of the paper only option. Paper sucks. Plastic bags, made from waste oil products or agricultural byproducts, are the best, safest and sanest way to go.

      I deeply resent a bunch of socialistic idiots 'ruling' over me over emotional bullscat.

      It's as bad as the 60 good farm acres just south of Lake City that's been turned into a solar farm. Good productive, even for Florida (where bad productive farm land is still better than most state's good farmland) gone to solar that will just screw things up.

      So tired of all this emotional environmental garbage. ARRRRRRGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    3. OK, Gotcha. "Too stupid to choose to use cloth bags on our own".

      I've tried to explain to my sister-in-law that Florida really isn't that good for solar power, but I don't think she gets it.

      We really need some sanity in this stuff, but (as always) the left dominates the messaging about "renewables are cheap and getting cheaper" and "climate change" so thoroughly that it's really an uphill slog.

  2. Some of the reusable bags I have looked at closely are made of woven plastic strips.Your EDC includes a magnifier, doesn't it?

  3. Doesn't China, ahem, recycle a lot of our plastic waste, and aren't they immune from the Weather Tax?

    Surely there's not some kind of green scam going on.

    1. That was the case until last year. China deciding not to buy our recycling "raw stock" is why some cities are giving up on recycling.

  4. Like so much ecotard foolishness, it's about virtue signalling rather than solving a problem. These are the same people that mandated MTBE in gasoline that pollutes groundwater and raised health concerns. They don't even begin to think about any consequences before they shove some lame demand down every one's throat.

    Here's the stupid part about banning plastic bags: they are ignoring REUSE. The eco-mantra is reuse, reduce, recycle. I regularly reuse plastic bags for lots of things, including stuffing my garbage in instead of buying garbage bags.

    And please, can't we stop with the engine damaging ethanol additives in gasoline? From what I've heard, the production process is dirtier than whatever benefit they claim from ethanol additives.

    73, Jim

  5. Look on the bright side. If the eco Loonies use the reusable cloth bags, catch a disease or food poisoning from the bag and die, then at least THEY are biodegradable ...

    Phil B

  6. Here's a little more info on recycling:


    Note how they lament that landfill costs are too cheap to help drive the increase of recycling they desire. They want .gov to jack up the costs to help them push this. They continue to conflate conditions in the EU with what they think should happen here, the typical Leftist "one size fits all" mentality.

    Also, the amount of plastic they claim that ends up in the oceans seems unrealistic.

    I think I mentioned a while back that the West Coast has a health issue now with homeless crapping all over the cities. This problem is largely due to the bag bans, since the crisis was traced back to the loss of a container that they were using for this purpose, ie: free bags.

    IIRC, according to someone a few years back who was fighting the early bans, those free thin film bags are made from natural gas, not from oil.

    1. A quick look and then searching for text shows they don't mention the problem of increased waste water and sewage system load that comes from cleaning out containers to recycle them. Nobody seems to count that.

      I also heard (might have been from you but I think on a radio program) that the root cause of the sewage in the streets out west
      was outlawing plastic grocery bags.