Across the country, 190 municipalities either tax plastic grocery bags or have banned them altogether.
In California, Los Angeles County banned them beginning January 1st of this year, and the California state legislature is currently entertaining a bill that would ban them statewide. In most places, paper bags can be purchased at the checkout in case one has forgotten to bring their own bag.
The justification for the bans have been the negative economic and environmental effects of plastic bags. In other words, forcing people to bring their own bags saves money for municipalities and helps save the planet.
Ban supporters tend to be passionate about its positive effects, to the point that even Portlandia did a sketch mocking them:
But as it turns out, plastic bag bans are a lot more symbolism than substance, and a recent study show us the reasons why:
- Banning plastic bags doesn't actually save money for garbage collection.
- They comprise about 1.4% of the municipal waste in the United States.
- Plastic bags do not harm sea life any more than other forms of improperly disposed waste.
- Manufacturing of plastic bags requires far less energy, water, and emits fewer greenhouse gases than do paper or in some cases, reusable bags -as Greenbiz explained “In Defense of the Plastic Bag.”
- Reusable bags have significant health risks due to unhygienic bacteria conditions and the fact that few people disinfect them properly.
- The poor often bear a greater financial burden, since charges for more expensive reusable or paper bags cannot be used for other purchases.
As good as it might feel to ban plastic bags, the facts show that it might be time to ban the bans. What do you think?
Editor's note: This article was edited for content after publication.