Monday, January 12, 2009

Banning Plastic Bags Might Not Help the Environment

Genesee County is considering a ban on plastic bags. It sounds like an obvious way to help the environment, right? That's what San Francisco thought when it enacted a bag ban. But it turns out all the ban does is encourage people to use paper bags, which turns out to be worse for the environment.

Joe Eskenazi told the counter-intuitive tale in a recent issue of SF Weekly. He writes:
Still, a number of cities and even nations have weighed the scientific evidence and concluded that a San Francisco–style ban simply shunts shoppers to paper bags and is markedly worse for the environment than the status quo. "Paper bags have a greater environmental impact than plastic bags, and therefore you would not create a policy that banned plastic and forced everyone to use paper only," said Dick Lilly, the manager of the waste prevention program for Seattle Public Utilities. After much analysis, that city spurned the San Francisco model in favor of a fee on all bags, meant to spur shoppers to bring their own.
Genesee County officials should read the article before they act. There's no denying that plastic bags are about as evil as plastic water bottles, but a ban might actually make things worse. The real solution is getting people to embrace BYOB — Bring your own bag.

13 comments:

  1. I have no desire nor intention to harm the environment. But I have to get as many paper bags as I can, because the ridiculous number of catalogs that come every week can be recycled only if I put them into paper bags. I do carry canvas bags to the grocery store, but - bizarrely - have to take some of my groceries in paper, as I have to have those bags!

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  2. Growing up in Flint my family always called brown paper grocery bags "Hamady Sacks". This came from the Hamady Brother's grocery stores on the west side. It wasn't until I moved out of Flint that I learned that others did not call them this.

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  3. That's so funny Sarah, I was going to post the same thing. :) There's no way I'm going to tie all the recycled paper in my house into little bundles. Paper bags are made for recycling...

    Don't the plastic bags get used for making fences or something? We drop ours off once a month.

    Our grocery here gives you 3 cents a bag if you bring your own... not much incentive... plus the baggers don't know how to bag with them. Am always trying to bag before the grocery clerk tries to help me.

    So I've mostly gone to paper because of the bagging hassle, and for our recycling.

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  4. I know what you mean. I use the paper bags to bundle all my other recyclables. But that's just for convenience. I don't have to do it that way. I could just throw everything in the bin outside. But that would be a huge pain. But that sort of proves the point of the article. I'm am weak and need a financial incentive to not use the bags. If they cost $1 each at the grocery store, I'd quickly figure out a new system.

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  5. rward, I quickly dropped the Hamady after I moved, but I still call them sacks and not bags. I lived in England for a year, and that caused some confusion because "sack" means fired.

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  6. We don't have a bin for paper out here. I would stop using paper bags if we had a covered bin for paper recycling that they would pickup.

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  7. Why not just re-use the plastic bags?! that's what I do...They don't get that damaged from their first round home from the store. And if you save enough you can double bag when they start to get weak. Really efficient re-use.

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  8. I use the plastic bags for a lot of things,packing mats. for mail, freezer storage for non-food perishables, my incontinent Irish Wolfhound's "little" attitude problems are easily picked and placed in them, carrying apples to the horses, temporary galoshes, etc.. adapt and improvise,or don't adapt and die. I've used them to carry other plastic waste and crap that washes up on my beach. And I call them Hamady sacks still, probably always will, plastic or not.

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  9. Yes, re-using plastic bags is a sound idea... not for me however. I hate plastic bags.

    I find the Old Navy beach bags when they go on sale for $1 at the end of the season are the best.... washable and strong. :)

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  10. I love those wonderful re-usable bags that they sell at Publix and Wild Oats. They are bigger and much stronger than either the paper or plastic sacks, and can not only be reused but they are machine washable (don't dry them, though).

    We don't have curbside recycling (embarassing as this is Al Gore's home state) but I just put my recyclables in the reusable sacks and empty them into the bins. I always keep several clean bags in the trunk of my car so they are handy when I need them for shopping.

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  11. Hey, I put my baby's poopy disposable diapers in those plastic bags, before I take them out to the Hefty-bag-lined garbage bin. They can't ban those little bags, they're so useful! And what will people use when they take their dogs out for walks and need to pick up after them?........Just kidding about my baby, he's 21 and potty trained!

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  12. We recycle our Flint Journals in Hamady sacks.

    Grumkin - the new Meijers (Davison) has a recycling bin for plastic bags of plastic bags inside the front door. What store pays for bags? A friend's daughter is selling plug ugly crocheted purses made from plastic grocery bags on Etsy.

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  13. The A&P over on the East Coast will pay you 3 cents a bag if you use them to bag your grocerys. Our Stop-n-Shop has the bin at the front for used plastic bags, but they don't pay you for those.

    I too use the bags for trash bins around the house and etc. So if they do away with them, I'll be buying more little Glad trash bags I guess. :)

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