Tag Archives: Reusable shopping bag

Using Reusable Bags: It’s Not That Easy

English: ENVITOTE’s superior design is a styli...

One of the most often heard claims by those who advocate imposing bag bans on everyone else, is that using reusable bags is not very hard to do.  Here are a few of their typical statements:

  • “I’ve happily been using reusable bags for years, so others should too.”
  • “What’s the big deal about remembering to bring your bag?”
  • “Some people will resist it at first, but eventually they will change and get used to it.”
  • “Sometimes it is hard to change habits, but people will change.  They just need encouragement.”
  • “Look!  I carry a few compacted reusable bags right on my purse strap!”
  • “It is easy! It isn’t so hard!”

These statements are often delivered in an exasperated or condescending tone, implying that people are making a big deal out of nothing.  The real basis for their argument is this: They do it, so others should not complain when they are forced to do it as well.

Setting aside the argument about whether or not it is right to force others to adopt an assumed green lifestyle, we wanted to examine why using reusable bags is challenging and why compliance with using reusable bags is so low, even in communities that have already implemented bag bans.  

Statistics

Surveys at grocery stores before and after bag bans show that most people are choosing not to use reusable bags.  In San Jose, the number of customers leaving grocery stores with no bag went up from 12.9% to 43.5% and the number of customers using paper bags went up from 10.3% to 18.8% after the bag ban. (Romanov, 2012)  Similarly, in Santa Monica customers with no bag went up from 15% to 36% and paper bags went up from 5% to 29%. (Team Marine, 2013)  The statistics for non-grocery stores are even worse, with an abysmal 8% of shoppers using reusable bags almost 2 years after the bag ban. (van Leeuwen & Williams, 2013, p. 12)

Using reusable bags must not be that easy, since the vast majority of shoppers avoid using these bags and choose to use either paper bags or no bags at all over reusable bags by a ratio of about two to one. (van Leeuwen & Williams, 2013)

To read the rest of the article, click on the following link: Using Reusable Bags Not That Easy

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Plastic Bag Bans and California’s Drought

California Condor on the 2005 California State...
California Condor on the 2005 California State quarter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 17 January 2014, Governor Brown declared a Drought State Of Emergency for California which included a call on Californians to reduce water usage by 20%!  In signing the declaration, Governor Brown stated “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas. … and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.” (Brown, 2014)

Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, stated “This is the most serious drought we’ve faced in modern times” and that we need to conserve the water we have for future use.  Similarly, State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin stated that there simply is not enough water to meet the needs of farmers, communities, and “the conservation efforts intended to save dwindling populations of salmon and other fish throughout Northern California”. (Associated Press, 2014) Continue reading Plastic Bag Bans and California’s Drought

Plastic Bags – Greener Than Alternatives

Plastic BagThe main reason policy makers give for banning plastic carryout bags is because of the litter impact of these bags upon the environment.  Yet, plastic bags comprise at most a miniscule 0.6% of roadside litter;  Whereas, Fast Food litter comprises 29.1% of roadside litter.  Despite the litter impact of plastic carryout bags, plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases than paper or cotton bags.  Plastic bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags.  Plastic bags take less than 4% of the water needed to manufacture paper bags.  Plastic bags generate up to 80% less waste than paper bags.  It takes 7 trucks to deliver paper bags and only 1 truck for the same number of plastic bags.  Furthermore, it takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than a pound of paper.

To justify banning plastic grocery bags in favor of paper or reusable bags with their higher environmental footprints, bag ban proponents rely on reusing a bag multiple times in order for its overall environmental impact to be less than a plastic carryout bag on a per use basis.  The concept expressed in Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) is that because there would be fewer reusable bags in circulation and since each bag is used multiple times that an environmental advantage is achieved over the use of plastic carryout bags.  However, there are some flaws in this concept.

To learn more click on the following link: Plastic Bags – Greener Than Alternatives

Issaquah Ballot Title Successfully Challenged

City Hall, Issaquah, Washington.
City Hall, Issaquah, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a petition filed on November 15, Mr. Craig Keller of Save Our Choice, challenged the ballot title that the City Council approved on October 21 for the newly qualified citizen’s initiative to “REPEAL of Plastic Bag Ban and Forced Bag Charge”.  The citizen’s initiative is on the February 11, 2014 ballot.  Save Our Choice objected to certain wording in the ballot title and description because they were ambiguous or were words of advocacy that could generate voter prejudice during balloting on the citizen’s initiative ordinance. Continue reading Issaquah Ballot Title Successfully Challenged

Bag Bans – Market Driven Solutions Superior

The movement to ban plastic carryout bags is growing as more and more California communities enact single-use bag ordinances.  These ordinances are very similar to one another and go beyond banning plastic carryout bags to implementing a very specific solution.   This solution attempts to change the shopping paradigm where shoppers supply their own reusable bags rather than receive store supplied disposable bags to carry their purchases.  To ensure that consumer behavior is changed, retailers are required by the local ordinance to charge a minimum fee for each paper bag issued. 

By implementing a specific solution, mandated by the government, innovation is stifled and businesses are no longer free to pursue alternative solutions that are in their best interests.  Government officials and their staffs simply do not have the expertise and time to investigate alternative solutions to solve the underlying problem or have the motivation to improve retailer customer service, therefore the government mandated solution locks an inadequate and antiquated solution into place.  Furthermore, freedom of choice on both the part of retailers and consumers is unnecessarily sacrificed, restricted, and infringed.

To read more, click on the following link: Bag Bans – Market Driven Solutions Superior.

Rebuttal of the San Jose Bag Ban Results

English: Montage of San Jose, California pictures.
English: Montage of San Jose, California pictures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In November of 2012, ten months after implementation of the San Jose Bag Ban, the city issued a report claiming success.  The memorandum contained an analysis of litter surveys and claimed a reduction of on-land plastic bag litter of 59%, 60% in creeks, and 89% in storm drains.  The latter figure is widely used by bag ban proponents as proof the law works.  However, problems with the underlying data as well as the methodology used indicate that these reduction figures are questionable.  Other factors such as a cost analysis was never done by the city nor were other less costly alternatives investigated.

In an article “San Jose Bag Ban Report Rebuttal” the authors respond to the claims of success in a stinging rebuttal.  The authors claim that the wrong parameter was measured, measurement methodology was unscientific and flawed, bag usage observations were not taken at a broad cross-section of stores, no cost/benefit analysis was conducted, and serious negative impacts were never addressed.

The authors present an analysis of plastic bag litter reduction calculations by the city as well as supply their own.  Also presented is a pre ban and post ban cost analysis of carryout bag use showing the cost increase that is incurred by consumers.

Citizens of Homer, Alaska Overturn Plastic Bag Ban

 

Homer welcome sign.
Homer welcome sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 27 August 2012, the Homer City Council voted 4-2 to pass an ordinance to ban plastic bags.  Subsequently, on  September 7, 2012 Mayor James C. Hornaday vetoed the ordinance. The bag ban was intended to reduce litter and retailers are prohibited from distributing plastic carryout bags at the checkout counter.  The ban excludes thicker plastic shopping bags, trash bags, bags for prescription drugs, and bags used to package bulk foods and newspaper bags. (Alaska Dispatch, 2012)  Paper bags are not banned nor is there a fee on paper bags.  Councilman David Lewis stated that he hoped people would bring reusable bags.  One of the complaints was that plastic bags are so light they blow away at the dump. (Dubois, 2012)  The council subsequently voted 4-2 to override the mayoral veto.   The ordinance banned the use of plastic bags effective January 1st 2013. (Alaska Pride, 2013)

A group of citizens in Homer hoped to overturn the plastic bag ban.  Justin Arnold, Dan Gardner, and Marlina Hogdon filed paper work with the city clerk to circulate a petition for 90 days.  They were required to get 230 signatures in order to place the issue on the ballot.  Justin Arnold stated there are many reasons why he wants to overturn the ban, the main reason is to give citizens a chance to vote on the matter.  Radio talk show host Chris Story also took up the band-wagon when he said the city council is not here to protect the environment but to conduct city business on behalf of city residents.  He also stated that the council spends too much time “changing your behavior in alignment with a larger agenda.”  The measure is on the 1 October 2013 ballot.  (Klouda, 2013)

On 1 October, 2013 citizens of Homer, Alaska overturned the plastic bag ban by a vote of 56% to 44% or 661-519.  A total of 1,180 votes were cast out of 4,337 registered voters for a 27.2% voter turnout.  (City of Homer, 2013)     

Most residents who objected to the ordinance simply objected to the coercion, many of whom already use cloth bags. The sentiment expressed was the problem with progressive politicians who rely on  the ban-hammer as the first weapon of choice rather than the last resort.

Bibliography

Alaska Dispatch. (2012, September 26). Homer plastic bag ban is back on. Retrieved October 4, 2013, from Alaska Dispatch: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/homer-plastic-bag-ban-back

Alaska Pride. (2013, October 2). Homer Voters Overturn Plastic Bag Ban. Retrieved October 4, 2013, from Alaska Pride: http://alaskapride.blogspot.com/2013/10/homer-voters-overturn-plastic-bag-ban.html

City of Homer. (2013, October 4). Certification of Election. Retrieved October 4, 2013, from Homer Alaska: http://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/exhibit_a_2.pdf

Dubois, T. (2012, July 26). Homer, Alaska Begins Process To Ban Plastic Bags. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from Plastic Bag Ban Report: http://plasticbagbanreport.com/homer-alaska-begins-process-to-ban-plastic-bags/

Klouda, N. (2013, April 17). Residents aim to reverse small Alaska town’s plastic bag ban. Retrieved October 4, 2013, from Alaska Dispatch: http://newsle.com/article/0/70599330/

 

Bag Bans: Wrong Way to Control Litter

Bag Bans are the wrong solution to control litter from plastic grocery bags.  Many communities are driven to ban these bags because they are a very visible form of litter.  But is banning these bags the right solution?  I don’t think so, and neither should you!

Plastic bags of all kinds make up only about 0.6% of litter.  So a ban on plastic grocery bags would at most eliminate no more than 0.6% of litter.  The other 99.4% is still out there waiting to be cleaned up!

All carryout bags have a negative environmental impact.  Paper bags and reusable bags have a higher negative environmental impact and larger carbon footprint than plastic bags.  In fact, 10 out of 14 environmental indicators go up after a bag ban is implemented, meaning a bag ban is a bad idea from an environmental perspective.

For more information see: Bag Bans Wrong Way To Control Litter.

Reusable Bag Recycling Rate Lower Than Plastic Bags

The majority of reusable bags currently in use in California are made from non-woven Polypropylene (PP) or fabrics such as cotton.  While PP is technically recyclable, currently there is no recycling infrastructure for PP bags in the state of California.  Furthermore, although cotton bags are technically compostable, there is no composting facility currently available.  Hence, both PP and cotton reusable bags must be disposed of in the trash or landfill.

A very small percentage (much less than 5%) of reusable bags are made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE).  These bags are recyclable via the In-Store Recycling Bin at your local retail store.

Environmentalists like to say that the recycling rate for plastic grocery bags is only 5% and therefore they should be banned.  But the recycling rate for reusable bags is closer to 0%.  Should they not be banned?

Why are Grocers For Plastic Bag Bans?

English: This is a paper bag from Victory Supe...
English: This is a paper bag from Victory Supermarkets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever wondered why grocery stores are in support of a plastic bag ban?  Well, I have.  I wondered if they supported the bag ban in order to cozy up to local officials?  Or was it because they wanted to be good citizens?  Or, is there some kind of financial incentive?

Before a bag ban, stores purchased plastic and paper bags and distributed these bags at checkout for “free”.  They really weren’t free, the retailer purchased and paid for the bags and passed the cost to you in the form of higher retail prices.  Plastic bags cost less than 2 cents each and paper bags from 5 to 8 cents each in bulk quantities.  The cost of plastic and paper bags is considered an overhead cost or an indirect cost and is indirectly paid for by customers. Continue reading Why are Grocers For Plastic Bag Bans?