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Are Plastic Bag Bans the Best Solution?

Posted on Friday, May 25th, 2012 at 2:34 pm under Be Happy.
plastic bag in tree

Courtesy of Kate HRA

Last week Hawaii became the first state to ban plastic shopping bags.  Though the state took criticism for the many loopholes, this was a very bold move that could potentially impact the environment.

The city of Los Angeles made another huge leap this week by becoming the largest city in the US to ban plastic bags. Stores throughout LA are required to phase out the use of plastic bags through the end of the year. Larger retailers will have 6 months from the day of the ban and smaller stores have up to a year.

The biggest snag in the Hawaiian ban is that retailers are only required to stop using them at the point-of-sale.  Food items, goods, and produces will still be wrapped in plastic and customers are still free to use non-renewable plastic resources to store purchased items.

Critics against the LA ban claim the ordinance is too strict and threatens thousands of industry jobs. Environmentalists counter-argue, saying the ban will help rid some of the 2.3 billion single-use plastic bags distributed in the city every year—bags that are clogging up water ways, blowing around streets, and hanging out in trees.

Other cities around the US banned plastic bags, but LA will be the first large city to do so.  Other countries also have plastic bag bans, including England, Mexico, India, Australia, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh.

But, the question still remains whether banning thin plastic bags is the right solution.  Last year Britain’s Environmental Agency published a report on the Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carry Bags. The studied showed that carry bags with a longer life had to be reused a number of times before they were environmentally a more viable option.

According to the report, a plastic bag used one time is the environmental equivalent to a paper bag being used 3 times and a cotton bag being used 131 times.  It may be a better bet to reuse plastic bags than to spend hordes of money on reusable shopping bags.

The bottom line is we must become our own best advocates for environmental health. Reuse bags that you already have from the grocer. Reduce waste by avoiding double bagging food items such as meats and produce. Eat more whole foods rather than processed foods that come in packages. Rather than throwing away plastic bags, use them as trashcan liners or bring them back to the store to recycle.

The Big Question:
What’s your take on the plastic bag ban? Do you think it’s necessary or is there a better solution? Share in the comments below!

Further Resources:

The Daily Green- 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Mother Nature- 16 Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

  • http://www.facebook.com/sanmadsen San Madsen

    I believe the ban on plastic bags should be nation wide. I also am concerned that you did not mention the use of Hemp bags in your article. Hemp has longer fibers than cotton does, making it easier to recycle for other uses, a bag that will last years longer than it’s cotton counterpart, and needs no pesticides to grow, meaning chemicals do not leach into the soil, ultimately making the land unusable.
    Plastic was a big deal at the time, but so were Edsels. Don’t be afraid to change the status quo.   

    • LesserEvil Life

      Excellent point on hemp bags. Thanks for the reminder.