Is There Any Benefit to Plastic Bag Bans?

August 11, 2014

Julian Morris of the Reason Foundation debunks some of the myths surrounding the plastic bag. While advocates of plastic bag bans would have you believe that the bags harm the environment and contribute to litter, the facts paint a very different picture.

Morris provides a short history of the plastic bag. They were first introduced to the American public in 1982 in Krogers and Safeways across the country. Eighty percent of all bags were made from lightweight plastic by 1996.

But in 2007, San Francisco swooped in to ban the plastic shopping bag. To date, more than 150 municipalities have imposed bag bans or restrictions. Some localities -- like Washington, D.C. -- tax the use of a plastic bag, while others simply ban them. California has a collective 100 bag bans across the state, and its legislature is considering imposing the restrictions on all of California.

Morris says that banning the bags will do little to reduce cities' waste disposal costs or to benefit the environment. This is consistent with previous NCPA studies on plastic bag bans. Recently, the NCPA examined several cities with bag bans and found no evidence that the restrictions have reduced costs. Moreover, plastic bags account for just 0.6 percent of all litter and are entirely recyclable. In fact, paper and reusable bags use more energy and release more greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags!

Morris hits on another point relating to plastic bag bans: they hurt the poor. Paying for reusable bags, or paying fees for the use of plastic bags, impose the greatest burden on those with low incomes.

Source: Julian Morris, "Your Whole Foods Tote Could Be More Harmful Than a Plastic Bag," Time.com, August 5, 2014.

 

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