Plastic Bag Ban

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
Plastic Bag Ban

The city of Dallas is considering a ban on plastic bags. Do you think this is a good or bad idea?

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.

Consumers like choice, and most choose plastic bags for their convenience, flexibility and strength. As a result, anecdotal evidence indicates that cities with bag bans have lost commerce, while surrounding cities and neighborhoods benefit as shoppers go elsewhere.

Two years ago, Los Angeles County implemented a plastic bag ban effective for only the unincorporated areas of the county. However, the ban was not in place for incorporated areas. A survey conducted by our organization indicates that consumers who lived in unincorporated areas crossed over into incorporated areas to shop where plastic bags were available. Reports from Austin show similar results. Stores affected by bag bans reported an increase in missing shopping carts and hand baskets.

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. This occurred despite the fact that the overall unemployment rate in Los Angeles County fell dramatically.

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.

In addition, plastic bags are rarely single-use items. Rather, long after plastic grocery bags have been used to deliver the groceries safely home, people find a variety of ways to reuse them. They are used to line bathroom trash bins, collect dog waste and used cat litter, to securely seal soiled diapers and more.

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 EPA 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 both satisfy consumer preference and meet environmental goals. Bag bans will reduce the motivation for those recycling efforts.

Reusable bags are being pushed as an alternative to paper or plastic in locales across the nation. Yet city leaders rarely consider the drawbacks. On the economic front, China is the leading manufacturer of reusable bags, while plastic bags are made in the U.S. with the industry employing thousands of workers.

There are also health concerns associated with reusable bags. When the bags are used to carry meats, poultry or fish, blood and other fluids can soak into them. If not cleaned regularly and stored properly, bacteria ? including E. coli ? can take up residence and mold can form. Continued use can contaminate the user?s food and the food of others as the contaminated reusable bags come into contact with the grocery conveyor belt. It?s true that reusable bags can be washed, but doing so shortens their useful life considerably.

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.

H. Sterling Burnett and Pamela Villarreal: Dallas plastic bag ban bad for many reasons | Dallasnews.com - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News

Link to study on LA bag ban.
A Survey on the Economic Effects of Los Angeles County

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

It's just so random to me. What about disposable diapers? Plastic water bottles? Ziplocks?? I read that disposable diapers were 2.3% of total waste back in 2010...my guess would be that has only increased.

I just don't think it makes sense to ban any of these items. Spend the money incenting people to stop using them (which, of course, some won't no matter what) or encouraging recycling.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

A lot of our stores give people incentives to bring their own bags, 5 cents off for each bag. Some do the reverse, they charge 5 cents a bag.

I think changing the way we think about these things is good.

In Toronto, they recycle disposable diapers.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I agree that I am much more apt to use incentives to drive using reusable products like bags. I have them and I think they are much sturdier than plastic bags. Plastic bags locally break so easy they are worthless.

I don't see anything wrong with trying to change thinking on items that aren't great for our environment. Concord, MA doesn't allow bottled water to be sold. Although they although soda (here though we pay a deposit for soda bottles and not water so maybe that is why there is a difference.)

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

a couple of local towns around here have banned them, the state as a whole has thrown the idea around. I dont know if it would bother me or not, I use reusable bags because I hate dealing with all the plastic bags.

As an aside, have any of you read the reports of how dirty those reusable bags get? So nasty

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116

Reusable bags are actually worse for the environment.

Plastic Bags versus Cloth Bags. Plastic bags are also noticeably more environmentally friendly than reusable cloth bags.

While most plastic bags are manufactured domestically, most reusable bags are produced outside the United States in places like China. These bags are then transported via gas-guzzling cargo ships to customers in the United States. Cargo ship transport is a significant generator of pollution. Additionally, as reusable bags are made from cotton and other sources that require substantial amounts of farmland to produce, the production of cloth bags leads to destruction of forests in cotton producing regions. These farms can also increase erosion and lead to pesticides in drinking water. Cloth bags are much more challenging to recycle since they contain a combination of materials including metal, cotton and other fabrics.17

The United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency determined that cotton bags have to be used 104 times before their environmental performance surpasses that of plastic bags.18 However, the average cotton bag is only used 52 times, and some cloth bags are used much less. As a result, cloth bags have twice the negative environmental impact of plastic bags

A Survey on the Economic Effects of Los Angeles County

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

"mom3girls" wrote:

As an aside, have any of you read the reports of how dirty those reusable bags get? So nasty

I can only imagine. Are they washable? I use plastic bags, I always reuse them at least once (usually dirty diapers!), but I don't recycle them as our suburb doesn't recycle unfortunately (You can drive your recycling somewhere, of course, but they don't pick up)

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

dp

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

The United Kingdom?s Environmental Agency determined that cotton bags have to be used 104 times before their environmental performance surpasses that of plastic bags.18 However, the average cotton bag is only used 52 times, and some cloth bags are used much less. As a result, cloth bags have twice the negative environmental impact of plastic bags

We use ours FAR more than 52 times, and we wash them regularly. Most people I know have had theirs for a few years and also wash them. Ours go right into the washing machine and stand up well. I use mine almost every day since we make trips to the grocery store across the street constantly.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

We use ours FAR more than 52 times, and we wash them regularly. Most people I know have had theirs for a few years and also wash them. Ours go right into the washing machine and stand up well. I use mine almost every day since we make trips to the grocery store across the street constantly.

I'd agree ~ I've had my bags for years. And whats this bunk about the bags having "metal" in them? Most of mine are organic cotton ~ this line cracked me up

Additionally, as reusable bags are made from cotton and other sources that require substantial amounts of farmland to produce, the production of cloth bags leads to destruction of forests in cotton producing regions.

~ do they also argue that our wearing clothing or sleeping on sheets is destroying the environment? I suppose they advocate plastic clothing and sheets :)? I'd like to learn more about that "study". I never ever go shopping without them, I'd so much rather load them to the hilt, it makes getting everything inside so much easier.

It always blows me away when I hear about people who live in places where they don't have curbside recycling. The idea of throwing recylables into ones trash just awes me, its been curbside here since I was in high school, so, what, like 20+ years? They take all of our glass, plastics, paper and cardboard, and we compost and used cloth diapers when we had kids in diapers, so we have hardly any trash anymore.

Anyway I'm fine with the ban. Frankly I'm just awed that anyone WANTS to use those bags, I found them so flimsy and crappy I would hate to have to use them. The ones I do get I save, and pack them inside my cotton bags, and always wrap my meat in them at the farmers market before I put it in my cotton bags. Thats just common sense.

If anybody wants a GREAT organic cotton bag made in the USA get these http://www.projectgreenbag.com/

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Ugh I would kill for curbside anything. We have to physically drive to the transfer station and separate our recycles there. First World Problem.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

Not sure what it is like now, but when I lived in Calgary they were considering the curbside recycling and there was a ton of stuff on the news about what really happens to the stuff you 'recycle'. It disgusted me, and now I dont recycle nearly as much as I probably could. I do cardboard, and sometimes cans, though I am more likely to put those on the front porch and post on facebook that someone can come and take them away. What I do however, is try to buy with less packaging. Like, if all things are equal, I will go with the product with less packaging, and I buy second hand whenever i can. Honestly though, it is something I need to look into in more depth and make a more educated decision about it, instead of just going with half remembered articles in the news.

On topic, I use plastic bags often, though I have a ton of reusables that get used for everything except grocery shopping. One of our grocery stores has awesome strong plastic bags that you pay $.05 a bag for, so I always get them when I shop there. They come in very handy. Other than that I tend to just forget my reusables all the time, but often use the available boxes instead. So I guess I do a variety of different things when it comes to getting my groceries home Smile

boilermaker's picture
Joined: 08/21/02
Posts: 1984

Yep-- what Melis said.

Where are these non-recycling places? Why does the public in those areas accept this as an option? If you live in that area, why not start your own curbside recycling pick-up company? Seriously.

I've had our bags for years and years. And I just pop them in the wash weekly and line dry them with my other items.

Not sure I'm all for an all-out ban, as we all get in a pinch at times and can see needing an alternative in a pinch, but I'm all for incenting behavior.

Danifo's picture
Joined: 09/07/10
Posts: 1377

"ftmom" wrote:

Not sure what it is like now, but when I lived in Calgary they were considering the curbside recycling and there was a ton of stuff on the news about what really happens to the stuff you 'recycle'. It disgusted me, and now I dont recycle nearly as much as I probably could. I do cardboard, and sometimes cans, though I am more likely to put those on the front porch and post on facebook that someone can come and take them away. What I do however, is try to buy with less packaging.

I've seem that too. I at least hope that even if the recycling goes to the dump, it helps sort it out into different areas.

I have reusables that I use most of the time for groceries. I never remember them for other stores though. Where we used to live most stores charged 5 cents and I remembered then! Where we are moving now has recycling and organic (weekly) pick up with garbage (every 2 weeks) in clear bags so I'm interested to find out how that works.

I wash my bags every 1-2 months. I find they do wear out after 2-5 years. I usually get new ones through various promotions.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

"boilermaker" wrote:

Where are these non-recycling places? Why does the public in those areas accept this as an option? If you live in that area, why not start your own curbside recycling pick-up company? Seriously.

That is too funny! I'll get right on that in all my free time....

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

In Calgary they voted it out. It is a really expensive program that people werent willing to pay for. My parents have curbside recycling and compost pick up. They HATE the compost pickup and are really up in arms about it. They dont use it cause they have their own compost, but, all the compost picked up goes to a common 'compost' for the whole city. Tax payers pay for this 'service'. But then if you want to get some of this awesome composted soil....you have to buy it. Makes them crazy to be charged twice for something they do in their own back yard. Our city just offered composters and rain barrels at a super cheap price last summer, like $20 each. They bought a ton of them at a discounted rate, and then offered them to everyone. I much prefer that as a cost saving way to encourage composting.

BTW, my parents only get one garbage can every two weeks, and they will refuse to take it if there are recyclables or compostables in it.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

We've had a plastic bag ban for over a year, I think. If you don't have a reusable bag, you can buy a paper bag, usually for about $0.10 each. Overall I'm pretty happy with it because the plastic bags are so flimsy you'd see people using two dozen of them just to get their groceries home, kwim? My only complaint is when it's raining, if you forget your reusable bag, the only option is paper which is going to get wet and break. I now keep a bunch of reusable bags rolled up in a rubber band in the trunk of my car, it's not inconvenient at all.

Funny thing, though, we also have plastic bag recycling, and all of the big grocery stores have had those bins for years. When the plastic bag ban was proposed, I thought, we don't need a ban because we have this plastic bag recycling. But now those plastic bag recycling bins are always full to the brim not from the plastic grocery bags but because people now realize how much other soft plastic film they can recycle -- bags from bread & produce, cling wrap, bubble wrap, etc. It's amazing!

We have curbside composting and I love it. We do our own backyard composting, too, but the curbside program can take a lot more things than we can process at home -- greasy pizza boxes, compostable plastics, empty ice cream & take-out food containers, things that would take forever to break down or that would throw our backyard bin out of balance go into the green cart and we still have plenty of compost for ourselves. The curbside program's composting facility distributes the compost it makes to local farms that sell organic produce to restaurants and in markets in the city, so it's kind of a closed-loop system. They also have a big compost giveaway day once in a while; you bring your own 5-gallon bucket to fill up for free.

Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot! Blum 3

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Spacers" wrote:

We've had a plastic bag ban for over a year, I think. If you don't have a reusable bag, you can buy a paper bag, usually for about $0.10 each. Overall I'm pretty happy with it because the plastic bags are so flimsy you'd see people using two dozen of them just to get their groceries home, kwim? My only complaint is when it's raining, if you forget your reusable bag, the only option is paper which is going to get wet and break. I now keep a bunch of reusable bags rolled up in a rubber band in the trunk of my car, it's not inconvenient at all.

Funny thing, though, we also have plastic bag recycling, and all of the big grocery stores have had those bins for years. When the plastic bag ban was proposed, I thought, we don't need a ban because we have this plastic bag recycling. But now those plastic bag recycling bins are always full to the brim not from the plastic grocery bags but because people now realize how much other soft plastic film they can recycle -- bags from bread & produce, cling wrap, bubble wrap, etc. It's amazing!

We have curbside composting and I love it. We do our own backyard composting, too, but the curbside program can take a lot more things than we can process at home -- greasy pizza boxes, compostable plastics, empty ice cream & take-out food containers, things that would take forever to break down or that would throw our backyard bin out of balance go into the green cart and we still have plenty of compost for ourselves. The curbside program's composting facility distributes the compost it makes to local farms that sell organic produce to restaurants and in markets in the city, so it's kind of a closed-loop system. They also have a big compost giveaway day once in a while; you bring your own 5-gallon bucket to fill up for free.

Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot! Blum 3

Thats REALLY nice!

As a totally unrelated aside when I used to live in Seattle I lived right next door to the Zoo. They used to sell "Zoo doo" , you know, animal poop, and it was AWESOME for our garden Smile It was wild picking up elephant dung and whatnot for our garden! Our compost makes our garden so much nicer, we don't have to use any chemicals and I love it, but I'd love a program like the one you describe!

ange84's picture
Joined: 12/28/09
Posts: 6564

We went on holidays in January and the state we went to has a plastic bag ban, we forgot and bought a reuseable bag from the store. My BIL who lives there has a whole cupboard full of reuseable bags because he always forgets to take his. I reuse the plastic bags from groceries as bin liners. I used to have reuseable bags but they fell apart and I just never replaced them.

We also don't have curbside recycling, our council has previously stated the program is too expensive as the nearest recycling processing plant is an hour and a half away and they would need to take everything up there. You can self recycle but very few people here know that and even less know where the drop off point is.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"ftmom" wrote:

Not sure what it is like now, but when I lived in Calgary they were considering the curbside recycling and there was a ton of stuff on the news about what really happens to the stuff you 'recycle'. It disgusted me, and now I dont recycle nearly as much as I probably could. I do cardboard, and sometimes cans, though I am more likely to put those on the front porch and post on facebook that someone can come and take them away. What I do however, is try to buy with less packaging. Like, if all things are equal, I will go with the product with less packaging, and I buy second hand whenever i can. Honestly though, it is something I need to look into in more depth and make a more educated decision about it, instead of just going with half remembered articles in the news.

On topic, I use plastic bags often, though I have a ton of reusables that get used for everything except grocery shopping. One of our grocery stores has awesome strong plastic bags that you pay $.05 a bag for, so I always get them when I shop there. They come in very handy. Other than that I tend to just forget my reusables all the time, but often use the available boxes instead. So I guess I do a variety of different things when it comes to getting my groceries home Smile

lol. Calgary finally joined the 21st century several years ago and now has curbside recycling. Smile They take just about everything. There's even a curbside composting pilot program going on right now and I think they're rolling that out city-wide soon. Not me, man. I'm not handing over beautiful, glorious, rich compost to the city. Are you freaking kidding me???? It's going in my organic veggie garden, thank you very much. Smile I actually pick up my new composter next week. Back to the plastic bag thing, most places here now charge per bag if you want plastic. I just take my reusable bags. I have all sorts of different kinds, ha ha. Some are string (which are my fave and are light, easily washed and adapt to any size package or produce, etc. I have some really sturdy, hard-bottomed ones that are really good for stores like Costco, or when I need to buy heavy or large boxed stuff. Otherwise I just use whatever bags that I can @#$%%ing remember to put in the van before I go shopping. That is my biggest issue with reusable bags - the fact that they don't come with little alarms that go off when you try to go on a grocery trip without them.