Fact: Plastic Bag BANS Are Bad for the Environment

An example of how the environmental nutcases are helping to destroy our economy, with the unintended consequences of also helping to destroy our environment.

Excerpt: lawmakers should never ban products for arbitrary or political reasons. They should have clear and convincing evidence that such bans are the only means for protecting the public—a situation that rarely exists. It is obvious to see that plastics industry workers can lose jobs as markets shift to supposedly “environmentally better” products, and consumers lose convenience from such bans. Less obvious is the fact that these anti-plastics policies are not the slam-dunk for Mother Nature that supporters claim.

Energy and Economically Efficient. First consider why plastic products have prevailed in the marketplace. In addition to being very convenient for carrying groceries (plastic bags) and carrying food (foam cups keep our coffee hot and food warm), these products are highly energy and water efficient as well as sanitary. That also makes them very inexpensive to produce and transport. Numerous life-cycle studies, which track a product‟s cradle-to-grave environmental impact, demonstrate this fact. For example, a review of several life-cycle assessments produced for a group called Use Less Stuff found that plastic bags:

 Generate 39 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than regular paper bags;
 Require 6 percent of the water necessary to make paper bags;
 Consume 71 percent less energy during production than paper bags; and
 Produce one-fifth the amount of solid waste compared to paper bags.

Despite these findings, Use Less Stuff suggests that people use reusable bags or recycle, but neither option is without its own trade-offs.

Reusable bags require far more energy and other resources to make. It is not clear they save resources unless they are used many, many times over. For example, a study produced for the Environment Agency in the United Kingdom found that cotton bags would have to be used 103 times before they yielded environmental benefits. But the government study estimated that cotton bags are only used 51 times, making them worse for the environment than plastic. This study did not even consider the energy and water use associated with washing the bags, which increases their environmental impacts and costs.

In addition, such washing is important to control another drawback associated with reusable bags—the development of bacteria. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University measured bacteria in a sample of reusable bags, finding many containing dangerous bacteria, such as coliform (found in half the bags) and E. coli (found in 12 percent of bags).10 They also noted that consumers reported that they rarely wash the bags in an attempt to control the development of such pathogens.

Foam plastic products are similarly energy efficient. Foam cups are even more energy efficient than reusable ceramic cups in many cases. One of the “classic” life cycle studies was conducted.

back in the 1990s by University of Victoria chemistry professor Martin B. Hocking.11 It measured energy-use requirements for foam, paper, and ceramic cups throughout each product‟s lifecycle—including production, disposal, and washing (for the ceramic cups). Foam cups were far more energy efficient than paper cups and even more energy efficient than ceramic cups that were used less than 1,006 times.

In February 2011, the research group Franklin Associates released findings from its life-cycle assessment of polystyrene packaging and alternative paper products. It found that the average 16-ounce polystyrene cup uses a third less energy, produces 50 percent less solid waste by volume, and releases a third less of greenhouse gases than does a 16-ounce paper cup with a sleeve.13 Over their life cycles, polystyrene packaging products require 20 to 30 percent less water than do paper alternatives.

Read full report here.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Fact: Plastic Bag BANS Are Bad for the Environment

  1. Check out my new blog: http://fighttheplasticbagban.com/

    On my blog I have a downloads menu item. If you click on that there are a number of papers that I have written that can be downloaded.

    One paper titled “Negative Health and Environmental Impacts of Reusable Shopping Bags” deals with the health issues more extensively than you did in the article above. For example, in addition to bacteria, viruses and virus transmission with reusable shopping bags could make other sick. Also, people who have AIDS or a suppressed immune system may be more sensitive to bacteria in reusable bags then people who have normal immune systems. About 20% of the population fit in this category.

    Also, when bag bans are implemented people always complain about all those plastic bags that end up in the landfill. But they have never stopped to calculate all the stuff going into a landfill after a plastic carryout bag ban compared to before. It would surprise you to know that 3 to 4 times the amount of material goes into the landfill post ban than pre ban. Those plastic carryout bags are sure looking good. see my article titled “Fact Sheet – Landfill Impacts” for the details and the calculations.

    There is much more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s