NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dallas Plastic Bag Ban Bad for Many Reasons

June 13, 2013

More than two dozen cities nationwide have banned plastic grocery bags or have imposed a fee for using them to encourage the use of reusable bags. Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway has now asked his colleagues to consider similar action, but before any vote, the council should recognize that bag bans have hidden costs, say H. Sterling Burnett and Pamela Villarreal, senior fellows with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Two years ago, Los Angeles County implemented a plastic bag ban effective for only the unincorporated areas of the county.

  • A survey conducted by the NCPA indicates that consumers who lived in unincorporated areas crossed over into incorporated areas to shop where plastic bags were available. Reports from Austin, Texas, show similar results.
  • Additionally, Los Angeles County's bag ban negatively affected employment at stores inside the ban area. While every store inside the ban area was forced to terminate some of its staff, not a single store outside the ban area dismissed any staff.
  • Stores inside the ban area reduced their employment by more than 10 percent. Stores outside the ban area increased their employment by 2.4 percent.
  • The cost to taxpayers also will rise as lawsuits are filed challenging these bans.

Contrary to the myth propagated by environmental lobbyists, plastic bags are not a significant source of waste.

  • Indeed, the national 2009 Keep America Beautiful study does not even include plastic bags in its top 10 sources of litter.
  • A recent study found that plastic grocery bags make up less than 0.6 percent of the overall waste stream.
  • Even this small amount will be reduced absent government interference, as plastic bag recycling is taking off. A number of major retailers have set up recycling boxes at the entrance of their stores to encourage recycling, and plastic bag recovery has increased by 31 percent since 2005.
  • According to Environmental Protection Agency data, this growth is more than nine times the 3.4 percent increase in recovery of all municipal solid waste from 2005 to 2009. Retailers have consistently argued that recycling is the best way to meet environmental goals.

Plastic bags are a minuscule waste problem, and every city that bans plastic bags costs its shoppers, businesses, the city government and workers with little or no benefit for the environment.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett and Pamela Villarreal, "Dallas Plastic Bag Ban Bad for Many Reasons," Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2013.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues