Monday, December 2, 2019

Doing the Homework

The County Council is set to vote on proposed legislation about single-use plastic bags tonight. There has been some discussion about this locally and, up until now, I haven’t felt like jumping into the fray. Well, better late than never.

Here are some articles which analyze research on the topic:

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?
April 9, 2019

Why Carryout Bag Fees Are More Effective Than Plastic Bag Bans
January 20, 2017

Do plastic bag taxes or bans curb waste? 400 cities and states tried it out.

August 27, 2019

Banning Plastic Bags Is Great for the World, Right? Not So Fast (June 10, 2016)

This quote stood out: The ideal city bag policy would pronounce involve charging for paper and plastic single-use bags, as New York City has decided to do, while giving out recycled-plastic bags to those who need them, especially to low-income communities and seniors. (The crunchy rich should already have more than enough tote bags from PBS and Whole Foods.)

If you want to see a full scale defense of plastic bags, make sure to take in this commercial website: (insert eye-roll here.)

Bag the Ban
The American Plastic Alliance

Here is a story about the proposed legislation in Howard County:

And here is the much touted “Amendment Three” which adds a ban into the mix.

In sum, research on communities who have enacted bag bans or bag fees shows the following:

  • A full out bag ban causes people to buy thicker plastic bags that take longer to break down than the single use ones.
  • A bag ban disproportionately impacts poorer communities.
  • Paper bags may break down faster but it takes more gasoline to move them around so they are equally problematic.
  • Those respectable cotton tote bags? Their production uses a ton of resources that far outweigh the benefits of reusing them.
  • The best reusable bags, environmentally speaking, are the plastic recycled ones.
  • A bag fee is the most effective at both cutting down on waste and changing behavior.

The loud local shouting on this is telling you the opposite. It stands to reason, they tell you, that a ban is a more environmentally sound approach. It isn’t. It stands to reason that charging a fee could mean only one thing: trying to suck more money out of consumers. It’s not.

It only stands to reason if you refuse to do your homework and you simply want to be right without the benefit of actual facts. It’s an emotional response, not an informed one.

I hope the Council will vote in favor of this legislation. If any of my readers want to make a case for or against Amendment 3,  I’m interested.


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