Don’t ban plastic bags!
By Hal Shurtlef
Like dozen towns and cities in Massachusetts and other states, Boston recently enacted a ban on plastic shopping bags. It went into effect December 14, 2018. It was a relatively easy vote, because “evil” plastic bags have received extensive bad press that generally ignores important facts.
The same holds true in other jurisdictions, especially those controlled by Democrats who a generation ago cared about American workers, but today too often subjugate the needs of blue collar families to demands by college educated and environmentalist elites, and even noisy grade school kids.
For example, when Los Angeles was talking about banning plastic bags, employees from a business that manufactured plastic bags spoke in person to the city council, begging it not to ban their products. The company employed hundreds of low-skilled people, paid them well and gave them excellent benefits. Many of the employees had worked there for years because they were treated so well.
They presented rational, factual information about their plastic bags. But the city council enacted the ban anyway, put the company out of business, and left the employees jobless, some of them likely homeless.
And of course it’s not just plastic bags. Los Angeles just banned plastic straws, and the state legislature is preparing to ban the straws statewide. Santa Barbara, CA banned all single use plastics: no more plastic forks, spoons, knives, Styrofoam cups and take-out boxes. Paper and cardboard only, from now on.
It is all social engineering and fake environmental protection by decree.
Here are some essential facts that you and government officials need to consider carefully in the future.
Plastic shopping bags made in the United States are made from natural gas, not oil – and America has at least another century of natural gas right under our feet. Moreover, plastic grocery bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags. In fact, it takes far more raw materials and fossil fuel energy to grow and harvest trees, make pulp and turn it into paper bags, than to make plastic bags.
Manufacturing plastic bags also consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags. In the process, plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases per use than paper or cotton bags.
It then takes seven trucks to deliver the same number of paper bags that a single truck can haul if the bags are made from plastic. That means it also takes far more (mostly fossil fuel) energy to transport reusable and paper bags than it does to transport plastic bags.
EPA data show that plastic bags make up only 0.5 % of the U.S. municipal waste stream. Plastic bags are 100% reusable and recyclable, and many stores make that process simple.
Reusable and paper bags take up far more space than plastic bags in landfills, and the airless environment of landfills means paper bags do not decompose for years, or even decades.
Most reusable bags are made in China and Vietnam, then shipped to the USA in fossil fuel burning cargo ships. Reusable bags are made from heavier and thicker plastic or cotton, which takes more energy to produce, even if it’s recycled fabric or plastic. A reusable bag must be used no less than 132 times before having a “greener” environmental impact that a plastic grocery bag.
Reusable bags aren’t recyclable, and reusable bag giveaways are environmentally costly when unwanted bags end up in the dumpster, often after one or even no use.
Research from Arizona has determined that few people wash their reusable grocery shopping bags, 8% of reusable bags harbor E. coli bacteria, and nearly all unwashed bags harbor other pathogenic bacteria.
Some stores have seen declines in business. One Solana Beach, CA business saw a 25% decline in business following the implementation of a plastic bag ban. A Grocery Outlet Store told a Portland, Oregon newspaper that it lost over $10,000 to shoplifters walking in with and using their own reusable bag to exit with merchandise without going through checkout lines.
Other stores reported losses of hand-carried plastic and metal grocery baskets due to bans.
Following Seattle’s ban, store owners surveyed post-ban reported seeing their costs for carryout bags increase between 40 and 200 %
The City of Boston implemented its ban in defiance of the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section, 8, Clause 3, the Commerce Clause, and the Massachusetts Constitution, amended Article 2, which prohibits municipalities from enacting private or civil laws governing civil relationships. Other governments have no doubt ignored U.S. and state laws and constitutions in enacting their bans.
They are often enabled by entities like the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), a United Nations subdivision founded in 1990 to implement the goals of Agenda 21, now called Agenda 2030. Massachusetts Green Communities, and Vision Boston 2030 have all labeled plastic bags a “public enemy,” despite the above-mentioned facts.
Bad science and emotionalism lead to bad laws. But you can take steps to stop the madness.
Contact your elected officials, and demand that the bans be lifted.
Refuse to pay the 5 to 10 cents per bag that your city forces store owners to charge.
Encourage store owners to fight the ban. If enough of them worked together, bans could be overturned. The Texas Supreme Court has overturned bans on plastic bags. Other courts could do likewise.
We all care about our environment and planet. But we should be protecting those values from real dangers, employing actions that actually work.
Hal Shurtlef is a life-long Boston resident, US. Army Veteran, Member of the Sons of the American Revolution, father of five homeschooled children, director and co-founder of Camp Constitution.