Story 2015-01-02 2WMG California becomes first state to ban plastic bags, manufacturers fight law

California becomes first state to ban plastic bags, manufacturers fight law

in environment on (#2WMG)
In August 2014, California became the first state to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. In addition, there will be a 10 cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags, and compostable bags at certain locations. The ban is widely supported by environmentalists, who say the bags contribute to litter and pollution. In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, could harm ocean life.

The state-wide ban was meant take effect on July 1, 2015, but the measure has triggered a harsh reaction from plastic bag manufacturers, who say their product can be easily recycled. An effort to kill the ban on single-use plastic grocery bags advanced this week after bag makers spent several million dollars on a campaign to gather signatures for a proposed ballot initiative to overturn it. Mr. Daniels of Hilex Poly said the plastic bag has been unfairly scapegoated for a variety of environmental ills. Thin plastic bags are reused, he said: They are repurposed as lunch bags and trash can liners, and they come in handy for pet cleanup.

Dozens of cities and counties throughout the state have already implemented local bans. Abbi Waxman, a television writer in Los Angeles, said, “I have, I’m not kidding, about 40 reusable bags at home, because I feel so guilty when I come without them that I buy more each time.” Ms. Moya, a telemarketer and a mother of two said she has begun stockpiling plastic bags at home because paper bags “are always breaking. It’s stupid, and it makes it really hard for us,” she said, as she waited in the rain for a taxi with her disintegrating paper bags.
Reply 24 comments

They do have uses around the house (Score: 4, Insightful)

by on 2015-01-02 17:22 (#2WMK)

I find them useful as packaging material when shipping an item; they are lightweight, naturally trap air, and have just enough "give" to keep the item I'm shipping intact during a drop. I also reuse them as trash bags for small cans, and for carrying my lunch to work. While I can't control what happens after being used for shipping, I can say that I always put them in the recycle bin after eating my lunch. And any extras that we get are taken to the local grocery store in bulk, which has a recycling program specifically for these types of bags.

I realize not everyone has the same usage patterns, but I don't think that 100% of plastic bags end up choking ocean life to death either. Like anything else, it's up to each person to act responsibly. I personally think California could better spend the money on recycling efforts and education about recycling, but I don't live there so I don't have a say in that.

Re: They do have uses around the house (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-07 20:55 (#2WP4)

I understand as I have the same use cases ( minus the packaging stuffer). However, if 99% of the bags are recycled and 1% of them end up in the ocean creating a garbage island the size of texas ...

Well, then I think you have to seriously consider methods to prevent them from forming a garbage island, or include introduce a tax in their price that would cover the cost of clean up. I don't models that privatize benefits and socialize costs.

Bogus arguments (Score: 4, Insightful)

by on 2015-01-02 20:37 (#2WMP)

Thin plastic bags are reused, he said: They are repurposed as lunch bags and trash can liners, and they come in handy for pet cleanup.
That is not the point. Even if a plastic bag is 10000 times reused, what matters is their number and their effect in the environment. To defend the plastic bag they'd have to show that their impact is less or equal than all of the alternatives. Since they don't do this one can safely assume they cannot do this.

Re: Bogus arguments (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2015-01-02 23:53 (#2WMV)

By that logic, we should stop making any and all plastics right now, and go back a century in industrial technology (you know, back when the skies were far more polluted than they are now). There are environmentally friendly uses for all manmade materials, and there are environmentally irresponsible ways to use them. I try to do my part to keep the planet clean. Simply put, a reused bag is one less newly manufactured bag. If that's not good enough for you, get out there and picket, or run for office to legislate changes.

Re: Bogus arguments (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2015-01-04 15:41 (#2WNH)

By what logic? I did not say anything about making or banning plastics. I pointed out an argumentative flaw in the arguments of the plastic bag manufacturers. What I would have expected were paid studies, which show that plastic bags have only very little environmental impact. Promises to recycle more. Promises to make them environmentally more friendly. However, more or less they answered the concerns that plastic bags could harm ocean life with: They are so convenient and have many uses. Or even shorter: So what?

What's more:
who say their product can be easily recycled
Again a non argument. So they are not recycled, but only can be recycled? Not they want to recycle more? Who is exactly supposed to recycle? Sounds to me like the usual 'privatize profits, socialize costs'. All in all if that's all the plastic bag manufacturers have to say, they should fire their spin doctors. They are absolutely incompetent.

Re: Bogus arguments (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-04 19:01 (#2WNJ)

If the problem is that plastic bags are just a scourage that needs to be eliminated... The 10¢ tax on paper bags that is part of the law, makes absolutely no sense, and is completely counter-productive to the supposed cause.

Re: Bogus arguments (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-15 11:52 (#2WQH)

I could be mistaken, but I believe that a large part of the reason plastic bags aren't often recycled is because the volume of plastic is so low that there's very little point even trying, compared to recycling other plastics.

For some reason though, politicians seem to have latched on to plastic carrier bags as an environmental issue.

Re: Bogus arguments (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-16 07:17 (#2WQP)

Walmart (which probably has a larger sample than anyone else) studied what happened when disposable plastic bags were banned in some locale (I forget where this was, but some city in California). They found that sales of packaged disposable plastic bags went up significantly -- apparently replacing all the Walmart plastic bags that had formerly been repurposed.

Point is, people still wind up using and disposing of the same quantity of plastic bags, whether they use the 'free' bags their groceries went into, or buy brand new plastic bags by the box. And the purchased bags are heavier plastic, rather less degradable than the store-type bags.

So banning plastic grocery bags produces no net gain to the environment, and likely produces a net loss (more nondegradeable material, more petroleum used).

Also, I've started to wonder if the store-type bags are now a cellulose-type plastic, since they fall apart at the slightest exposure to the elements.

Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-03 00:55 (#2WMX)

All of the grocery stores around here (Texas) have reusable cloth bags at the check-out counters. For a couple of bucks you get a durable cloth bag that can be used hundreds of times and wont break when carrying heavy objects like milk or orange juice bottles. For me, plastic bags "died" years ago.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-03 01:03 (#2WMY)

Try carrying meat in those. Hope your dairy products don't spill. Yes, the cloth bags can be good for dry boxed products.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-05 02:27 (#2WNP)

I just carried a 6 lbs brisket flat, 5 lbs of short rib, and 4 lbs of ground beef, all in a reusable grocery bag. I mean, a 15 lbs grocery bag is kind of annoying, but it worked just fine. I'm not sure what you're doing wrong, but it's not like it's hard to put things in a bag and carry it away.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-05 09:29 (#2WNV)

The concern is with blood leaking into the bag

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-08 13:51 (#2WP9)

Ah, then the blood turns anyone who eats anything inside the grocery bag into cow zombies. Got it.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-19 18:31 (#2WRF)

No, but that means the bag has to be washed before it can be reused. Or thrown away.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-22 20:54 (#2WSD)

That's actually a good point... It's entirely possible the energy cost of washing a cloth bag is more than producing and disposing of several one-time-use plastic bag. Now somebody just needs to actually prove it...

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-07 20:57 (#2WP5)

I do carry meat in those on a weekly basis, as well as Dairy. What's the problem exactly? They're cloth. They can be cleaned easily. I have a dedicated machine in my basement for doing so, with another one dedicated to drying them.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-11 03:17 (#2WPE)

Two dedicated machines to launder grocery bags only? And you're concerned about the environment? You just doubled your laundry's carbon footprint to keep from using 100% recyclable bags. I don't see that as a net positive.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-13 18:35 (#2WPX)

I think he means that, like the rest of us, he has a washing machine and dryer dedicated to cleaning cloth things. The cloth grocery bags just happen to fit that category.

Re: Reusable Grocery Bags (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-13 20:44 (#2WPY)

I can see that, re-reading it. Likely reading comprehension fail on my part, sorry.

Does not work (Score: 2, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-03 01:09 (#2WMZ)

We have had a state ban here for years. Same rules as in TFA. It sucks. Just does not work. Most people buy the thick "multi use" bags which are generally not multi use unless you take very good care of them. Some people take their cloth bags back to the shops. Most of the thick plastic bags are thrown away. Case in point: Every second week or so for two years they ran out of thick bags. Yes. Imagine that. Thousands of people with no bags to put their groceries in. There are no big paper bags here. It sucks. Some people drive 25 mins away to Qnbyn just to shop. I, like most people, just pay the 15c per bag "shopping tax".

Re: Does not work (Score: -1)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-03 01:58 (#2WN1)

How are the thick bags better than the thin plastic bags?

It's just a bad habit (Score: 5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-04 08:44 (#2WNC)

As the article says, there was nothing wrong with cloth bags. We just somehow got into this habit of getting plastic bags. I use cloth bags all the time and haven't had any issues with them. They don't deform and topple on their own so spillage etc. isn't even an issue. Also, it's very easy to keep a couple of them in the car, a couple at the house etc. Remembering to bring one isn't an issue either.

The reuse cases they mention in the article are just laughable. In all three cases, the bag ends up in landfill along with unrecycled food/dog waste.

However, simply banning stuff makes people feel uneasy. There was a supermarket in UK which did a very clever thing. They printed the membership-discount barcode on the cheap cloth bag they sold. So if you wanted discounts, you remembered to bring your cloth bag. Something like that could make people view this as a more positive thing rather than government horsing around, banning stuff without good reason.

Biodegradable Bags (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-01-08 03:01 (#2WP8)

I would rather pay for plastic bags which will break down over the plastic reusable bags. Either degradable or biodegeadable. Just culling off plastic bags for thick plastic bags is not a solution. Paper bags are considered to be worse than plastic hence the cost disincentive.

folding plastic crate (Score: 1)

by on 2015-01-14 11:16 (#2WQ9)

Flimsy single-use plastic bags are to be avoided. They contribute to litter and pollution -- a lot.
Re-use folding plastic crates. We've been using those for over a decade. Get a few sturdy ones .. never look back.