Bag usage surveys conducted to date overwhelmingly show that shoppers have rejected using reusable bags and preferred to use paper bags or NO bags at all by a ratio of about two-to-one. While the stated intent of most plastic bag ban ordinances is to shift the majority of shoppers into using reusable bags, and reinforced by imposing minimum fees on paper bags in order to coerce shoppers into using reusable bags, the exact opposite has happened instead. This is not surprising since using reusable bags is not without its own set of problems.
Litter from fast food waste makes up 29.4% of roadside litter. Should we ban fast food takeout? Now, before you answer, plasticgrocery bags make up less than 0.6% of all roadside litter and cities all over California are banning plastic grocery bags! The good news is that fast food takeout is not being banned, but it begs the question “Why are plastic grocery bags singled out when their contribution to litter is miniscule?”
In fact, officials who vote for plastic bag bans cannot even point to a plastic bag litter problem in their own community! Let alone a problem of sufficient magnitude that would justify a ban. Litter surveys are rarely ever conducted and when they are, they are conducted in a haphazard manner leading to questionable results. Decisions to implement bag bans are usually based on anecdotal evidence, questionable at best, offered by environmental groups such as showing pictures of a few plastic bags littered around town, in the river bed, and pictures of a turtle chewing on a plastic bag.
Everything that man uses is littered. Ever see a discarded candy wrapper, a paper bag, a milk carton, a mattress, a sofa, or a tire on the side of the road? Life would be tough if we ban everything that is littered, including plastic grocery bags. Despite the lack of evidence that plastic bag litter is a significant problem, let’s assume it is and look at more cost effective and appropriate methods of dealing with that litter, methods that would be beneficial to the community.
Proponents of plastic bag bans frequently list a number of third world nations where plastic carryout bags were banned. For example, countries such as Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Ghana where full or partial bans were adopted.