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Should Plastic Bags Be Banned?

(Sam Breach/Flickr)

(Sam Breach/Flickr)

A move by the town of Brookline to ban plastic bags at grocery and other retail stores has some wondering if it’s really the best way to protect the environment.

Guests:

  • Clint Richmond, Brookline Town Meeting member who helped write the petition to ban plastic bags
  • Al Lewis, economist who is in favor of taxing retailers instead

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  • http://twitter.com/nprnewsjunkie Freddie

    Starting in August 2011 the City of Long Beach, CA instituted an ordinance that says large retailers such as grocery and drugstore chains couldn’t give away plastic bags any longer. That instead they had to charge 10 cents for a paper bag.  Of course you can bring your own plastic, paper or reusable bags to shop with and that is what the city wants. What has rubbed citizens and vistors the wrong way is the charge of a dime for a bag, instead of just letting retailers provide  paper bags for free. Tourists, usually in Long Beach to leave on cruise or maybe for something at the convention center think were joking and trying to rip them off. (I work at one of the chain drug stores in downtown Long Beach) There are exclusions though, such as the McDonalds next door, they are allow to provide plastic bags for free, as are local small liquor and clothing stores. 

    Signal Hill, which I believe is the only city in America that is totally inside of another city, Long Beach has no such law.  And if you want free plastic bags with your shopping most Long Beach residents need only to drive a couple of miles to get them and avoid potential hassles. 

    The store I work at and our others of the same chain run out of paper bags and just can’t drive over to another store in the chain to get more because Long Beach, CA is the only city in the area that does this. 

  • N Meyer

    I often forget to bring my canvas bags into the store so I just put my loose groceries back in the grocery cart and bag them at the car.

  • Beth from NH

    I’m sure this is a question that’s been answered many times: Can I get a special dispensation to use plastic grocery bags to collect dog waste? Seriously, I support sustainability in most areas of my life, but as a shopper on a tight budget, I find it hard to spend extra money to buy biodegradable poop bags. How do other dog owners handle this choice?

  • Rachealmyers

    The leftist insanity continues every day. When will it stop?

  • Bilpatters

    Is it so terrible just to use paper and canvas? I had yet another European laughing at how little we care for the environment just two days ago. “Americans complain about Climate CR change, yet they drive massive SUV’s and use plastic grocery bags. They want everyone else to save the planet for them.” I could only agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-Hyman-Rego/715554435 Rachel Hyman Rego

    I use plastic bags to empty out litter boxes and pick up dog poop.  What else ya got for such dirty work? 

  • 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
    bag.

     

    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.

     

     

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

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