Saturday, April 27, 2013

Should Plastic Bags Be Banned? | Radio Boston

Should Plastic Bags Be Banned? | Radio Boston
Donna Dempsey 

Don’t believe the
hype: Plastic bags are the better option at checkout
By Donna Dempsey

Critics of plastic bags often rely on scare tactics because
the science doesn’t support their assertions. When reused, recycled, or
disposed of responsibly, plastic bags are the environmentally-preferable option
at checkout.

First I’d like to address
pollution – fodder for those banning plastic bags. Plastic bags make up a
fraction of one percent of the waste stream—so banning or taxing this one
product is not going to impact litter or help the environment. The renowned
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute found zero increase in the amount of plastic
bags in the ocean over the past two decades, even though we’ve been using
plastic bags more and more. That said, the American Progressive Bag Alliance
takes litter very seriously—which is why we advocate for expanded recycling
programs and education.

Plastic bags are 100 percent
recyclable and recycling rates have grown dramatically in the past decade.
Because of innovation and the plastic bag industry’s commitment to producing an
environmentally-friendly product, plastic bags and films can be recycled into
everything from more bags to swing sets and park benches. With these developments,
the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry supports 400 jobs in
Massachusetts alone – and more than 30,000 nationwide.

Advocates of bans on plastic bags also avoid the science on
paper and “reusable” bags, both of which are far worse for the environment than
plastic and leave a much larger carbon footprint on the earth . Let’s take
paper bags first.

After a review of the life cycle analysis literature, a
University of Oregon chemistry professor this year found that paper bags
consistently require more resources to produce and are responsible for more
greenhouse gases than plastic bags. Moreover, paper bags take up seven times as
much space as plastic bags. That means seven times as many trucks on the road
transporting the same number of bags.

If paper bags aren’t the
answer, what about “reusable” bags? For starters, since nine out of ten people
reuse plastic shopping bags as garbage bin liners or lunch bags, plastic bags
are not single use but in fact multi use bags. In contrast, market data show
that eight out of nine “reusable” bags are never actually reused. In fact, most
“reusable” bags are not even made of natural fibers; they’re really just
another type of plastic bag, except that unlike American-made plastic
bags—which come from natural gas—these bags are often made in China from
foreign oil.
Moreover, reusable bags have been proven to harbor dangerous
bacteria like E. coli and fecal coliform. In fact, an Oregon girls’ soccer team
was infected with the norovirus after eating food from a germ-laced reusable

Meanwhile reusable cotton bags when actually reused, need to
be reused 131 times to be a greener option than plastic, according to a U.K.
government study.

We welcome consumer choice and are merely asking that policy
decisions be based on facts – not mistruths.


Donna Dempsey is a spokesperson for the American Progressive
Bag Alliance, founded in 2005 to represent the United States’ plastic bag
manufacturing and recycling sector, employing 30,800 workers in 349 communities
across the nation.
The APBA promotes the responsible use, reuse, recycling and
disposal of plastic bags and advocates for American-made plastic products as
the best environmental choice at check out—for both retailers and consumers.

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