retail news in context, analysis with attitude

An organization called The Reason Foundation, which describes itself as advancing "a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law," is out with a new study challenging virtually every rationale behind the laws adopted by some 190 US municipalities either taxing or banning single-use plastic shopping bags.

Using what it calls "the best data available," the foundation says that "the bans, fees and taxes on shopping bags have a minuscule impact on litter," that "there is no evidence of a reduction in municipal litter or waste collection costs as a result of the introduction of bans, fees and taxes on shopping bags," and that "other environmental impacts are not significantly reduced and some, including greenhouse gas emissions, may increase as a result especially of restrictions on the use of plastic (HDPE) shopping bags.

Furthermore, the study concludes that "there is likely an adverse health effect from people failing to wash bacteria-ridden reusable bags, the use of which may increase as a result of restrictions on the distribution of other bag types," that "reusable bags are less convenient and, when taking into account the time and resources required to remove bacteria from bags, are very costly for consumers," and that "the costs of plastic bag bans fall disproportionately on the poor."

The report has come out as California considers a state-wide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.
KC's View:
It is simply hard for me to imagine that if the usage of plastic bags goes down, and fewer plastic bags are then made, that it won't have a positive environmental impact. It just doesn't make any sort of common sense to say so.

Maybe we're not there yet. Maybe you need 400 municipalities to make this decision to have an impact. Or 600.

While my sense is that this group hasn't met a regulation that it doesn't reflexively hate, I do think they make a good point about some of the health issues … and maybe a better job has to be done in educating people about these potential problems.

BTW…I've always said that I'd prefer to have a shift away from one-use disposable bags take place as a social movement, rather than as a result of legislation. But I'm also not sure we can always wait.