Plastic Bags? Ban ’em?

January 5, 2012

This is a personal social commentary. In the pursuit to eliminate all that is not green, plastic bags seem to be a natural target these days. Eliminate them from shopping? Or charge people for using them when shopping?

Whatever happened to our wonderful big sumptuous decomposing brown paper bags which were taken from us when we were forced to use only plastic bags a few years ago? It was a huge change back in the day. Now, because “they” are our nearly only choice for use in retail stores (which are the same stores who bought us into this whole mess and forced us to use them a few years ago) Now, we the consumer are being punished for using them? I already recycle them. I just want to yell, “foul!” Really?

The retail industry should be the ones paying the tax on the number of bags they order, not us. I can see it now, our children will be going back to brown paper sack lunches so they wont be taxed for each and every zip loc bag they use every day as well.

Because of the widespread use of plastic products and packaging, some say, these plastic bags have contributed to environmental conditions ranging from increased pollution to overloaded landfills to the country’s dependence on oil and not to say anything about its impact on animals (and no, it has not helped birds build warmer nests). 

In response, some cities have adopted legislation, and policies that tax our use of these bags and or ban plastic grocery bags made from polyethylene in favor of bags made from other materials such as cloth, compostable plastics, or paper. What about the composit plastic bags, if this really is an environmental issue. Come on, eventually they will end up in landfills as well, and they are even bigger/thicker bags.

I think the public consumer should be better informed, there needs to be a coordinated communication plan for this issue. And, I believe the newly imposed local policies with additional “hidden taxes” on plastic bags is made without informing the public correctly, nor fully disclosing all the facts and without providing the public a voice or vote on the policies being uniformly imposed on them. This is my opinion.

But, my concern is more about the hidden taxing with no voice, no vote nor any effective communication to us the people while imposed said changes are enacted on the individual consumer, instead of big retailers and manufacturers. Why tax us and punish us?

There are a myriad of other arguments like the environment and the trash. And, there can be other local changes made to fix overspending and budgetary woes. Heck, I am already growing my own food with a garden and raising a small gaggle of chickens to offset high costs and being environmentally more conscious. 

But now, I am thinking that I may start recycling my old T-shirts or jeans or better yet, start bringing my little red wagon or cardboard boxes for my shopping (from the Post Office, Fed Ex, UPS, DHL which are free for us to use).

Or, maybe I can simply side step all shopping in Montgomery County and boycott the county retailers and go buy my own plastic bags directly from the manufacturers, have them shipped to my house and skip the tax all together? Please see the links for the plastic bag. Less material means less waster and fewer emissions.

  • Plastic bags generate 80% less waste than paper bags.
  • Plastic grocery and retail bags make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5%) of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.
  • Plastic bags generate only 50% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of composted paper bags.
  • The production of plastic bags consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags. 
  • Plastic grocery bags are fully recyclable and the number of recycling programs is increasing daily.
  • Nationwide over 855 million pounds of bags and film were recycled in 2009—up 31 percent from 2005.
  • According to EPA’s data, about 13 percent of plastic bags and wraps were recycled in 2009.
  • Plastic bags can be made into dozens of useful new products, such as building and construction products, low-maintenance fencing and decking, and new bags.
  • In recent years, many grocers and retailers have introduced plastic bag collection programs. Tip: Look for a collection bin, usually located at the front of the store or near checkout areas.

I wonder if anyone publishes or considers the total consumer plight on being taxed to death for everything? This is a recession. Why are local governments and states taking even more money of our very limited incomes from families who are already stretched to the hilt, out of work and taxed beyond belief?

First we are force fed plastics, now we are taxed or banned from their use. And, now they are no longer so environmentally friendly? I am either thoroughly confused or have I been mislead with the wishy-washiness of just what is being touted as environmentally sound? Just what is the skinny on this plastic bag conundrum? Why punish the consumer for what was pushed down our throats a decade or three ago? 

\What about those big manufactures of the actual plastic bags or the retailers who create and buy them to start off with? Why not fine, tax, ban, limit or boycott these huge manufacturers and retailers for the creation, supply and distribution of the bags to retailers since they are the ones that actually buy them? And many are importing from China and Taiwan.

Here is a list or plastic bag manufactures that supply Maryland.

Search your state for manufacturers of plastic bags here.

Please read the following research from “Life Cycle Assessment for Three Types of Grocery Bags – Recyclable Plastic; Compostable, Biodegradable Plastic; and Recycled, Recyclable Paper.” The conclusions regarding the relative environmental impact when using a life cycle view are consistent with previous studies and need to be reinforced in the policy arena and communicated to the people more effectively. The policies to discourage plastic bags may have more to do with litter control or generating revenue for cash strapped municipalities than the overall environment.

Whatever the goals of the policy makers, these need to be far more explicit than general environmental improvement, since the life cycle story is consistent in favor of recyclable plastic bags. It is possible that the emphasis of another report might be that the full benefit of plastic bags is even higher when large recycling is in place, instead of taxing people.

Here are a few more facts about plastic bags:

Re-using, re-cycling, taxing manufacturers and distributors while instituting and providing for better public environmental communication plans from retailers on their own plastic bag purchases, bag use and conservation campaigns might be a solution, without pinching our already over taxed hardworking Americans supporting this economy and who are being left holding the bag, so to speak.

If you want to dig deeper below is a list of more references from Wikipedia:


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