LA Times on Plastic Bag Bans

Plastic BagsToday’s Los Angeles Times editorial pages weigh in on the various proposals in Sacramento to ban plastic bags from stores by calling for a basic fee for their use.  This would encourage consumers to be more thoughtful when it comes to using re-usable bags when food shopping and an assessed fee would likely increase the use of these items.

From the editorial:

Consumers already pay for carry-out bags; they just don’t realize it because the cost is rolled into the price of the goods they buy, creating the illusion that the bags are free. Where they’ve been made explicit, fees of just 5 cents have cut plastic bag use 75% to 90%.

Still, people occasionally need or want the convenience of a plastic bag and would pay a little extra for one, so why not? The goal should be to greatly reduce the number of bags floating around as trash — the flimsy bags with handles are the second most common trash item found along California’s beaches, and they contribute to the giant floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean — but not to make people live without them entirely. People who pay for the bags are more likely to reuse them. (For unknown reasons, the plastic bags that grocery shoppers use for their vegetables — and those used to wrap this newspaper — do not tend to end up as trash in or near waterways.)

Although a 2006 California law prohibits cities from adopting fees on plastic bags, it hasn’t stopped municipalities from taking action. More than 70 have banned the bags outright, including Los Angeles, whose ban will take effect later this year. The patchwork of laws around the state — some cities and counties ban both paper and plastic bags, some ban plastic but levy a fee on paper, some have no law at all — is confusing for retail chains and consumers, and the bans eliminate consumer choice.

Now OC Assemblyman Travis Allen has proposed a bill to effectively ban bans on plastic bags citing the large amount of water required to launder these reusable products and the negative impact of the environment on the sudden increased laundry demands on the Southern California water supply.  Interesting comment since in 2006, the United Nations found that each square mile of the world’s oceans has about 46,000 pieces of plastic.

Allen cites studies about food borne bacteria from unwashed plastic reusable bags as a culprit.  We had a nice debate with Republican operative Jim Bieber last year who sabotaged his own grocery bags, deliberately put good food in dirty bags and then made a case for food borne illness and health-risks associated with their use.  And then again, I can place a dirty diaper on a new born baby and complain about the increased dangers of diaper rash.

While the plastic reuable bags aren’t bad, there are canvass ones that are easier to launder and less likely to break.  I own several made by a small business in OC that are virtually knitted soft string; these are very elastic, weigh practically nothing and can carry up to 50 pounds of groceries.  We launder them with the towels after use.

The Times editorial accounts for those who forget their bags at home by allowing for a fee to use bags the stores provide, for those moments when you need to get something from the store on the way home.

But there’s plenty of evidence that plastic bags are harmful to the environment.  Want more proof, try here.  And here.

Making the laundry of reusable bags an environmental issue over the use of one-time plastic bags makes as much sense as tax cuts for the rich trickling down to help the poor for the economy.

  7 comments for “LA Times on Plastic Bag Bans

  1. April 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Check out my new blog:

    On my blog I have a downloads menu item. If you click on that there are a number of papers that I have written that can be downloaded.

    One paper titled “Negative Health and Environmental Impacts of Reusable Shopping Bags” deals with the health issues more extensively than you did in the article above. For example, in addition to bacteria, viruses and virus transmission with reusable shopping bags could make other sick. Also, people who have AIDS or a suppressed immune system may be more sensitive to bacteria in reusable bags then people who have normal immune systems. About 20% of the population fit in this category.

    Also, when bag bans are implemented people always complain about all those plastic bags that end up in the landfill. But they have never stopped to calculate all the stuff going into a landfill after a plastic carryout bag ban compared to before. It would surprise you to know that 3 to 4 times the amount of material goes into the landfill post ban than pre ban. Those plastic carryout bags are sure looking good. see my article titled “Fact Sheet – Landfill Impacts” for the details and the calculations.

    There is much more.

  2. Dolfert
    April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I use my plastic bags for garbage — perfect for this post. Idiotic.

  3. Corky Jackson
    May 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    The plastic people like the guy above creating hysteria over reusable bags are simply using the same PR techniques used by the cigarette companies years ago: lies. The head San Francisco Health Officer himself said there was nothing to that study (which was not peer-reviewed and showed absolutely NO connection to reusable bags).

    Consumer Reports reviewed the moronic Loma Linda and University of Arizona study and called them baloney (and funded by the plastics industry):

    Enough lies! People are waking up to the waste heap that corporate America is making of our planet and saying, Enough is enough.

    Go crawl back into your slimey little polluting hole while Californians work to make our cities and waterways cleaner, despite all your lies.

  4. Phil
    May 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    The first commentor must know something I don’t and Europe doesn’t. People have been reusing bags since ww2 in Europe without keeling over dead. I did and I’m still here. One should also recall Costco uses its cardboard boxes for customers. Who recycle them later.

  5. Jim Bieber
    May 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Dan –

    Thanks for the call out.

    I know you slammed me for my demonstration on how cross contamination can occur with meat products in a “reusable” grocery bag and that only an idiot would not know how to properly manage contaminated “reusable” cloth or plastic based bags – your most recent comment…
    “I can place a dirty diaper on a new born baby and complain about the increased dangers of diaper rash.”
    Please take a moment to read the account from NBC “Reusable grocery bag carried nasty norovirus, scientists say.”
    Did you read the exactly how the virus was transferred with the bag? Were the people from Oregon particularly stupid? In a small dwelling, during the flu season, what are the chances of this type of contamination occurring with someone just slightly less intelligent as you? These parents in Oregon must be extra extra stupid to have made their kids ill. That is the only explanation for how those girls got sick. I must say for a Liberal you don’t seem very compassionate about real dangers that will be imposed upon the exceptionally stupid.

    • May 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Oh Jim, I missed you. Did you read the whole story. The girl got sick first and spread the virus to the bag that happened to be there along with other things in the hotel room.

      From the story: “The trouble with noroviruses — which cause an estimated 21 million cases of gastroenteritis a year, some 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths — is that they’re tough bugs that can live for prolonged periods on objects and surfaces, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

      “Norovirus does have the vexing capacity to persist in the environment,” he said.

      While the risk of contracting an illness from any particular reusable bag is low, Schaffner said, the Oregon study follows a 2010 paper by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University that found large numbers of bacteria in reusable grocery bags, including 12 percent that were contaminated with E. coli.

      But few have debated the study’s conclusion, which found that washing the reusable shopping bags regularly decreased contamination by 99.9 percent.”

      Jim, I use canvas bags. I don’t store them in the trunk. I keep them with linens and break them out to go shopping. When groceries are put away, the bags go in the wash with other laundry.

      The people in Oregon weren’t stupid, they were unaware the player had a nonorvirus that can stick around for while, especially during flu season. Perhaps the player, if feeling ill, shouldn’t have made the trip. You neglect to mention you rigged your test by rupurting a meat packahe, leaving it in the car’s trunk so bacteria could fester and then knowingly put apples in the dirty bag. Basically you picked up yoru dog’s feces with your hand, and withut washing, mixed up some meatloaf and wasn’t surprised that your guests said your dinner tasted like sh…. read the PDF for a little more info Jim.

  6. Jim Bieber
    May 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Dan –
    Sorry to say I haven’t really missed you. Let me walk you through the article and the conclusion – you seem really fecal focused. You make the brilliant point that if you put dirty diapers or dog poop in a “reusable bag” it will cause a health hazard. That is not the case of what happened in Oregon- the girl who was sick did not put anything in the “reusable bag” she did not even touch it.
    “Maybe she shouldn’t have gone if she was sick” again read what happened. She got sick, her thoughtful parents isolated her from the other players and put her in a different hotel room yet they still got sick. How? What was the pathogen?
    You claim I “rigged” a study. Here’s a news flash, every scientific study according to your definition is “rigged” I reproduced conductions that are well within the realm of possibility, some animal or biological produce remained in the bag, the bag wasn’t washed after it was used to transport the item. I have no idea how much bacterial was on the apples but no one took me up on my challenge to take a bite out of one.
    Getting back to stupid people – I guess you conceded that the parents in Oregon weren’t particularly stupid so how did they manage to infect her daughters team mates – if not by stupidity or gross recklessness how did it happen and who’s responsible?
    Good for you that you keep your canvas bags in your linen closet, I keep my reusable plastic bags in a holder in the laundry room, I keep my pool table in my game room, one of my cars in my three car garage, treadmill in the guest room ect.. aren’t we both smart, intelligent and average OC households. No chance that we will have bags that infect us, our family members or friends. What about a family of 6 living in a two bedroom apartment without a washing machine? Are their sick children isolated from the “linens?” Will their cloth bags become germ bags? Okay so you are able to wash your bags after each and every use, do you use a hand sanitizer to clean your grocery cart each and every time? When those without our resources take their bundle of bags out of their car and plop them down in a cart what happens? There have been reports of baggers refusing to bag cloth bags because when the open them up cockroaches come out. So Mr. bleeding heart, lover of the underclass, what are you proposing to do to make sure everyone is as smart as you and I? What about a Prop 65 label and warning with each bag sold, posted in each grocery store? Is that reasonable?

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