Bag Banners have long demonized disposable plastic grocery bags by labeling them as “single-use” plastic carryout bags that, they claim, are only used only a few minutes to carry your groceries home. These claims disputed by citizens who understand that plastic grocery bags are not single-use bags but are reused by consumers for a variety of other purposes. While Bag Banners and public officials only half-heartedly acknowledged such reuse, they steadfastly refused to consider the environmental benefits that such reuse creates. The question “Are Plastic Grocery Bags Falsely Labeled as ‘Single-Use’ Bags?” is an important question that will be examined from several perspectives in this paper. In addition, paper grocery bags and also the newly mandated thicker plastic grocery bags will be examined including the terminology used to describe these bags. We intend to expose the blatant falsehood behind labeling a shopping bag as either single-use or reusable.
Plastic T-Shirt Bags (aka Plastic Grocery Bags)
Plastic grocery bags with handles are actually named “Plastic T-shirt Bags” and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and custom printed logos. They are a time saving convenience for both the retailer and the customer and which offers the retailer a marketing opportunity to advertise their business. For customers, they are not only convenient, clean, and safe, but they also serve a multitude of other uses after transporting their purchases home. So how did these safe, clean, convenient and reused plastic “T-shirt bags” get relabeled as “Single-Use Plastic Carryout Bags” in city, county, and state laws?
On Monday, 4 May, 2015 the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 to 1 to finalize the repeal of the two year old ban on plastic bags and the mandatory 10-cent fee on paper bags. The repeal is effective on 3 June, 2015 when stores can again issue plastic carryout bags. (Carpio, 2015)
Council-members Mike Posey, Erik Peterson, Billy O’Connell, Barbara Delgleize, Dave Sullivan, and Jim Katapodis voted to finalize repeal the ordinance and Mayor Jill Hardy voted to keep the ban in place. (van Leeuwen, 2015)
According to Council-member Mike Posey, the plastic bag ban was never an environmental issue, but an issue of personal freedom. (Sharon, 2015)
Some people welcome a ban on plastic carryout bags, others are opposed, and others are not sure. This article is intended for those of you who are in between and unsure whether you should oppose or support a bag ban.
With as much that goes on in the world today that vies for our attention, getting excited about plastic grocery bags (i.e. plastic carryout bags) is certainly not high on the totem pole. We live in a topsy–turvy world where things that were once banned are allowed (e.g. marijuana) and things that were once allowed are now banned (e.g. plastic carryout bags).
So how can we approach this subject in a fair and impartial manner? How can we determine if we should support or oppose a bag ban? We know that when the legislature or a local jurisdiction passes a law they are trying to solve a perceived problem. So the answer to the question is to understand the nature of the problem and how the proposed solution or law intends to solve that problem and most important what alternative solutions were considered. The more clearly we understand this the better we can see how our personal freedom and liberties are affected and whether that intrusion is warranted and justified.
The purpose of this paper is not to provide a detailed explanation of the problem and the solution (e.g. plastic bag ban) but a philosophical argument about why or why not bag bans should be opposed.
Arguments to support plastic carryout bag bans are weak, generalized, emotional, and irrational. These arguments can be better described as nothing more than lies, myths, half-truths, distortions, and embellishments. It doesn’t take a lot of time for a person with an open mind and some skills in sorting fact from fiction to examine the arguments and come to the conclusion that a ban on plastic grocery bags is unsound. But it takes a commitment to objective truth to sort fact from fiction.
Develop a Skeptical Show Me Attitude
So how do you immunize yourself from the misinformation that bag ban proponents attempt to foist on you and keep yourself from being hoodwinked and having the wool pulled over your eyes? You have heard the saying “I’m from Missouri, show me!” This little saying describes the kind of skeptical attitude that you should develop, that you do not take things on faith, that you cannot be easily fooled or conned, you have to see the evidence and the proof. Developing a skeptical “show me” attitude, learning to ask pointed questions, will make you less susceptible to misinformation and false propaganda.
Familiarize Yourself with the Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations
Start by reading and familiarizing yourself with the contents of the article titled “The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Bag Ban Proponents” (van Leeuwen & Williams, The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Ban Ban Proponents, 2013). This article will provide you with a basic understanding of many of the myths and misinformation typically used by most bag banners.
The city of San Jose is one of the few cities in California that conducted litter surveys before and after a plastic bag ban went into effect. The city conducted surveys of litter on city streets, creeks, and storm drains. The city published results in a memorandum dated 20 November 2012.
Environmentalists and Bag Ban Proponents love to say that “San Jose saw an 89% reduction in plastic bag litter after the bag ban.” However, that is not what the San Jose 1 Year results show, as stated below:
“The various litter surveys demonstrated a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system, 60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in City streets and neighborhoods, when compared to data collected from 2010 and or 2011 (pre-ordinance) to data from 2012 (post-ordinance).” (Romanov, 2012)
Stating that San Jose saw an 89% reduction in plastic bag litter deceitfully overstates the 59% reduction in plastic bag litter found on San Jose city streets and sidewalks; and the 60% reduction in plastic bag litter found in creeks and rivers.
Not only are environmentalists hyping the wrong number, the number itself is based upon a reduction of 71 fewer plastic bags found in 22 storm drain catch basins and hardly the kind of number to be tossed around.
Environmentalists and Bag Ban Proponents should be using the 59% reduction in plastic bags on streets and sidewalks instead of the 89% reduction in storm drains.
Bag Bans are one of the latest Eco-Fads being pushed by the “green” movement and virtually all “environmental” groups as a solution to the plastic bag litter problem. These groups put enormous pressure on city officials to implement a plastic bag ban and paper bag fees on their citizens. These groups attempt to link virtually every environmental problem to the simple plastic grocery bag, defying logic and misleading government officials, the media, and the public by continuously repeating a series of lies, distortions, and half-truths that do not hold up under scientific scrutiny.
There is a saying that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. This is often the strategy of the bag ban proponents. And the internet has afforded thousands of people eager to ban bags the ability to repeat the same lies and distortions over and over until people just accept them as fact.
In this article we examine a majority of the most often quoted and repeated lies and distortions related to plastic bags and bag bans.
The plastic carry out bag has been given a bad rap because of misinformation. With the internet the propagation of bad information or myths are almost impossible to stop. For example, the plastic carry out bag is widely believed to have caused the death of 100,000 marine mammals and a million seabirds as a result of ingesting plastic bags. However, the allegation is untrue and was based on a Canadian study that stated the deaths were a result from discarded fishing nets and fishing tackle and not plastic bags or plastic debris as reported in an article published in The Times of London on March 8, 2008 entitled “Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain”.
Proponents of banning the plastic carry out bag have further demonized it by calling it a “single-use” plastic bag as part of a propaganda campaign. The real “single-use” bag is the plastic trash bag. Once the trash bag is used for its primary purpose to hold trash, it is never reused for any other purpose. The plastic carry out bag, on the other hand, once used for its primary purpose to carry purchases home, has a large number of secondary uses. Hence, this bag is really a multi-use bag. The reusable bag is also a multi-use bag but more durable. To call the plastic carry out bag a “single-use bag” is intellectually dishonest. Continue reading The Upside of Plastic Carry Out Bags→