Plastic Bag Panic Grips the Nation

Boston, Portland, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Annapolis, Baltimore, New Haven—all are currently considering some form of plastic-bag ban, most of them total bans, on the grounds of environmental harm. The bans would cajole all stores to give up the convenience of 2-cent, water-resistant, cheaply recyclable plastic in favor of 5-cent, soggy, handle-less, expensively recyclable paper.

The initiative follows from San Francisco’s ban on plastic for all supermarkets and big-chain pharmacies (the ban currently exempts all small, independent retailers and thus passes on costs mostly to the poorest consumers). Apparently, plastic bags are an environmental nuisance because people insist on throwing them into the sea, where they kill fish and other marine life. And they won’t rot away for a millennium.

The anti-plastic movement has also inspired a fashion craze: ugly hemp bags (greener than plastic AND paper!). Most recently the fad saw hordes of “light greens” lining up around the block at Whole Foods to buy $15 designer bags emblazoned with the statement, “I’m NOT a plastic bag”:

The greatest irony of the morning was as a result of the ongoing torrential rain. Upon leaving the store, after hours in the downpour, proud owners placed their prized new bags into Whole Foods plastic bags to keep them dry.

Enter the Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization of three plastic bag manufacturers founded to promote responsible plastic bag use (that is, in favor of no plastic bag use). The Alliance claims that the anti-plastic movement has ignored some important facts about the beloved paper they will require stores to supply. So they've started selling their own rival to the hemp craze on eBay: "I AM a plastic bag and I'm 100% recyclable":

Myth: Paper grocery bags are a better environmental choice than plastic bags.

Fact: Plastic bags use 40% less energy to produce and generate 70% less emissions & 80% less solid waste than paper. (U.S. EPA website, www.epa.gov/region1/communities/shopbags.html)

Myth:Plastic grocery bags take 1,000 years to decompose in landfills.

Fact: Today’s landfills are designed to prevent decomposition of anything. Chances are your orange peel, milk carton and even last year’s newspaper won’t breakdown. Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.

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  • ||

    Myths, you say?

    How am I supposed to show my superiority to the rest of you cavepeople if I can't simply emblazon it on my shopping bag?

  • ||

    I often opt for paper bags because it is nice to have some of them around. They are great to drip-dry fried fish on. But this makes me want to exclusively use plastic....

  • ||

    I only discovered this since I broke the leg, but those grocery style plastic bags make life on crutches a bit easier. The handles, low weight, and low compressed volume mean you can actually carry things you would have no other way to carry.

    With the plastic bag, I can get my own lunch from downstairs by putting wrapped things in the bag and using the handles as wrist straps. Without the bag, someone else has to be my hands. Plus, they slip quickly over a cast in case of rain.

  • edna||

    and, of course, polyethylene bags are cheaper than paper. the recyclability is technically true, but... #4 is hardly ever recycled, and when it is, the product is uneconomic compared with virgin polyethylene.

    but as with all religion, it's not about the environment, it's about the environmentalists.

  • Tim||

    Mock all you want, haters, but it's just less wasteful to reuse a cloth bag for a couple of years than to accumulate all of that paper or plastic.

  • ||

    I think you scared the EPA becase the paper vs plastic article is no longer available.

  • ||

    ...bag manufacturers founded to promote responsible plastic bag use (that is, in favor of no plastic bag use).

    The Brady Campaign for responsible bag use? Come on, they don't want to ban anything, just have some common sense restrictions on bag use.

  • cls||

    Ugly hemp bags? Didn't REASOn give out hemp bags at the Amsterdam conference? : )

  • ||

    Mock all you want, haters, but it's just less wasteful to reuse a cloth bag for a couple of years than to accumulate all of that paper or plastic.

    Yes, but that shit's for filthy hippies.

  • ||

    Perhaps, Tim, but that hardly translates to "ban the alternative."

  • ||

    organization of three plastic bag manufacturers founded to promote responsible plastic bag use (that is, in favor of no plastic bag use).

    Something's not right here...

  • ||

    "Mock all you want, haters, but it's just less wasteful to reuse a cloth bag for a couple of years than to accumulate all of that paper or plastic."

    Dirty, smelly used bags for dirty, smelly hippies. Where do I sign up?!

  • ||

    Reason once again tries to convince us that both common sense and every environmental watchdog group is wrong about a basic ecology issue but we can trust the plastic bag industry to give us the real scoop. And what the hell, let's call it a "panic" since that further illustrates that anybody who disagrees with Reason's views are clearly just hysterical or trying to make us feel bad.

  • aaron||

    the ban currently exempts all small, independent retailers and thus passes on costs mostly to the poorest consumers

    Got anything to back that up? I would think the poorest consumers would be the ones doing most of their shopping at the small, independent retailers, i.e. the corner bodega.

  • ||

    I don't know, aaron. What I do know is that I can buy a shitload of stuff at Walmart for a lot less than I can buy it at any small retailer, and I see a lot of low-income-lookin folks in there that seem to know the same thing.

  • ||

    "what the hell, let's call it a "panic" since that further illustrates that anybody who disagrees with Reason's views are clearly just hysterical or trying to make us feel bad."

    DanT has become immune to humor.

  • ||

    Using paper bags is more harmful to the environment than recycling plastics ones. Why can't some of you read?

  • ||

    DanT IS humor.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tim||

    Ahhh, attack the dirty hippy, eh? The psycho gun toting wannabe libertarian's response when devoid of argument.

  • ||

    My previous comments in mind, I honestly am a recycling fanatic. Seriously. I'm the one who has only about 1/4 the trash going into the pickup every week, but I have to make three runs a week to the recycling center as it's too much. I get so religious about it, I peel labels from soup cans and put the paper in one container, cans in the other. Yes, by most people's standards I'd be strange, but I don't force it on others it's just the way I live my life, as I cannot see a bad result from reducing my impact to the planet.

    We get plastic bags, though. The reason is that I use them as trash bags, thus eliminating what most people do which is buy plastic trash bags, carry them home in a plastic grocery bag, and then throw away the plastic grocery bag into the plastic trash bag. I have a frame designed to hold them, to the extent that I need them. Those that remain go into a recycling container. I would say that the net trash footprint is negative compared to using paper.

    Plastic bags are not the problem. People that are selfish idiots who can't put their trash in a container are.

    The problem with Annapolis is that the bay is the end of every storm drain system in the area, and there are, I believe, at least the Severn river and college creek which come in there also (at least I think, college days at canoe U were many years ago now). Outlawing the bags in Annapolis proper won't affect anything from Deale to Crofton, all of which have drain systems going to the bay. I am, of course, assuming that they don't have hordes of people going down to the bay and dumping their plastic bags just for the hell of it, and that the bags get there via the storm drain system.

    I don't know San Fran so well. This is actually a comfort to me. However, what I do remember is that there's Oakland on the other side, and the bay goes a fair ways north and south.

    As someone said, enforce litter laws, and free people so they embrace the concept of self responsibility.

    On DanT...why do y'all keep feeding the troll?

  • ||

    The rules clearly state that the Dirty Hippy Gambit is always in bounds.

  • ||

    I've always reused the bags.I find they work well as trash bags in the baths,and bedrooms,seed for the yard and clean up for my dog when I walk him in town.

  • ||

    I installed a kegerator to eliminate can/bottle waste. burp.

    And Tim: I'm sure that you wash regularly, and I support your right to use hemp bags. But I don't, and I don't care to.

  • ||

    Uhhhh, I don't use hemp bags that is. I do wash regularly......

  • aaron||

    What I do know is that I can buy a shitload of stuff at Walmart for a lot less than I can buy it at any small retailer, and I see a lot of low-income-lookin folks in there that seem to know the same thing.


    True, but there are no Walmarts in San Francisco, so that doesn't really apply. I'm 100% against a ban on plastic bags. I'd just like to see some evidence to back that statement up. I was once a relatively poor resident of San Francisco, and bought a lot of cheap Mac and Cheese and canned chili at the independently-owned corner store.

  • Episiarch||

    I would think the poorest consumers would be the ones doing most of their shopping at the small, independent retailers, i.e. the corner bodega.

    Would you shop at the corner bodega for everything you need for the week for you and your kids? Somehow I'd think the Huggies, ground chicken, and broccoli would all be cheaper at Wal-Mart.

  • ||

    Anecdotal - My wife and I hosted a German intern in our home for about 8 months last year. On her first trip to the local Publix grocery store, she was approached by the store's rent-a-cop and questioned about why she was putting canned goods into her handbag. (After the explanation, in her broken English, they had a laugh about it).

    She had one of those mesh things that we would call a beach bag, that had her wallet in it. In Germany, you pay for the plastic bags, so EVERYBODY brings their own shopping bag. Of course, in her town, everybody shops at the small market, and frequently. Here, many of us shop only once a week, or less often, making it more difficult to get by with one "beach bag".

    Just talkin'... boring morning at work.

    CB

  • ||

    I take my lunch in them. I use them as packing material. I wrap dirty diapers in them to avoid over stinking the Diaper Champ. I transport food to BBQ's and parties in them. I use them as impromptu pool or beach bags. Sweaty gym clothes go in them. I use them as my car trash bags. I've even got a special little bin for them in my pantry.

    Now explain to me again how plastic grocery aren't recycled.

  • ||

    "what the hell, let's call it a "panic" since that further illustrates that anybody who disagrees with Reason's views are clearly just hysterical or trying to make us feel bad."

    DanT has become immune to humor.


    Perhaps you're right - I should have recognized this H&R entry as the obvious satire it is. In fact, it's a pretty smart take on the entire anti-environment mindset: "trust the plastic bag manufacturers to tell you the truth".

    Juliet, you got me on this one.

  • ||

    I mean - Explain to me again how plastic grocery bags aren't recycled.

    Also, I forgot to add small trash can trash bags to my list.

    They really are one of the most useful inventions ever.

  • ||

    You can fit about six times as much in a reusable bag as in a plastic bag, and about four times as much as in a paper bag. That translates to about 2-3 fewer trips from the car to the kitchen counter. Easiest environmental choice I ever made.

    Where does Juliet Samuel live that paper bags don't have handles?

  • ||

    Paper bag handles break like crazy, especially if you've got anything cold and heavy in your bag on a hot day.

    And I second Matt J's uses for plastic bags. I've never needed a gym bag because of them.

  • ||

    Legal bans hardly seem necessary. If most people can be persuaded to use reusable bags, then the relatively few plastic bags out there aren't going to cause any real harm. Why is compulsion necessary for something like this? Why not just win hearts and minds?

  • ||

    joe - the paper bags that the grocery stores use (or used) here in Atlanta metro never had handles. Only the paper bags from the fancy schmancy department stores had handles.

    Now... a mesh bag with backpack straps for that final trip into the house... that may be what gets me off of plastic bags... that and the way the plastic bag handles, when heavily laden, thin down to the point of pain...

    CB

  • ||

    "You can fit about six times as much in a reusable bag as in a plastic bag, and about four times as much as in a paper bag. That translates to about 2-3 fewer trips from the car to the kitchen counter. Easiest environmental choice I ever made.

    Where does Juliet Samuel live that paper bags don't have handles?"

    They don't in Southern Ohio or Northern KY.

    I go to the store a little less than once per week. No way I would pack that many resuseable bags. Multiplying trips doesn't seem smart just to avoid getting useful plastic bags. The economics might change, and it would be different if I went daily, but for now I don't see it.

  • ||

    ...but as will all religion, it's not about the environment, it's about hating environmentalists.

    Whole lotta Johah Goldberg disease on this site every time an environmental issue comes up.

  • ||

    No one's mentioned the ink. The ink on carelessly discarded paper bags leaches into the ground water. That 1,000 years it takes plastic to decompose is what makes it environmentally friendly. As George Carlin said; "the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic."

  • ||

    I think the better question to ask is this: is plastic bag litter any more pernicious than other types of litter, e.g. single shoe, plastic bottles, fast food drink cups, etc...

    Not saying that I like to see them flapping on chain link fences, but the problem isn't with the bags, it's with the douchebags who toss them everywhere.

  • ||

    "...but as will all religion, it's not about the environment, it's about hating environmentalists."

    I was raised Presbyterian, and it was more about self hatred, really ...

    "Whole lotta Johah Goldberg disease on this site every time an environmental issue comes up."

    Well, we are opposed to regulatory limitations on choice, and there are people who want to regulate choice, so ... I dunno, what are we supposed to say?

  • ||

    JasonL,

    The fact that you wouldn't make an environmentally superior choice without an angle that benefits yourself is the reason for the ban.

    It's a commons issue - everyone benefits if no one else uses plastic bags, but each individual benefits if he, personally, uses plastic bags. Until someone figures out a way to grant a property right that will encourage people not to throw out their bags, regulation is the best solution we've got.

  • Episiarch||

    ...but as will all religion, it's not about the environment, it's about hating environmentalists.

    Uh, joe, you ever consider that it's about hating fuckbag enviromentalists who wish to use force to make us act the way they think is right? You seem to always miss that very critical "force" issue.

  • ||

    JasonL,

    "I dunno, what are we supposed to say?"

    Something besides "Whatever the hippies want must be wrong."

  • ||

    Take the tragedy of the commons out of "public roads" and all these problems will be solved.

    Demand kurv, my presssscious

  • ||

    Epistarch,

    That would be great, except for the derision that gets poured on environmentalists even when they are simply making a choice for themselves.

    edna and gaijin's bile about people who dare to use cloth bags relates to force, how, exactly?

  • ||

    "Something besides "Whatever the hippies want must be wrong."

    First, the invocation of the hippy on a libertarian blog is like putting a monkey in a tv commercial. It makes everything funnier.

    Second, when the hippies want to regulate choices, we are going to be annoyed.

  • ||

    "Dirty, smelly used bags for dirty, smelly hippies. Where do I sign up?!"

    Ah, the hippies vs. the 'necks. Apparently neither has thought to place the cloth bag into a washing machine. I guess you'd have to go to the big city or the richman's suburbs to see that kind of technology. But don't worry JLM: you can wash your hemp bag in the river with the rest of your clothes and dishes and animals.

  • ||

    "It's a commons issue - everyone benefits if no one else uses plastic bags, but each individual benefits if he, personally, uses plastic bags."

    It is unclear that this is objectively the case to any meaningful degree. It isn't the case than any amount of negative externality trumps any amount of individual value gained from the use of these bags. Regulation is a fat, unsubtle hammer.

  • x,y||

    I've even got a special little bin for them in my pantry.

    Which you probably purchased at a home-goods store. Ah, the market at work.

  • ||

    You can fit about six times as much in a reusable bag as in a plastic bag, and about four times as much as in a paper bag. That translates to about 2-3 fewer trips from the car to the kitchen counter.

    I can carry 4-5 plastic bags on each arm. That translates into 1 trip from the car to the kitchen. Unless it's a dog food and cat litter grocery day.

    Jesus joe. How much do you consume?

  • Episiarch||

    except for the derision that gets poured on environmentalists even when they are simply making a choice for themselves

    So now we're not allowed to make fun of people? (not that I did in this thread)

    joe, you really are confused about use of force and use of ridicule.

    And you are a killjoy.

  • ||

    I usually use a cloth bag that doesn't have any wanky slogan on it. Sometimes I use plastic bags, and on occassion, paper. But seriously, why not reuse cloth bags? If you hit the grocery store on your way home and don't have the bags with you, fine, use plastic or whatever, no biggie. But what is grudge against a goddam canvas bag? Jeez...

  • x,y||

    It's a commons issue - everyone benefits if no one else uses plastic bags, but each individual benefits if he, personally, uses plastic bags. Until someone figures out a way to grant a property right that will encourage people not to throw out their bags, regulation is the best solution we've got.

    Where do you get the idea that "everyone" benefits if no one uses plastic bags? Surely, the people who use plastic bags disagree. As do plastic bag manufacturers. Want to tweak your argument at all joe?

  • ||

    OK, now that I have been slammed properly for the hippie comments (uncle! uncle!), here is a serious, non-snarky question for the eco people:

    I agree with many here that the plastic bags are the most user friendly option, and I use them for all kinds of things after the fact. They rarely go in the trash directly, but they usually do after the second use (often with dog poo or fish guts in them). Is there any bio-degradeable material out there that has comparable properties to plastic and is cheap to manufacture?

  • ||

    Since everyone is all in a snit:

    I do not think using a cloth bag makes you a smelly hippy.

    I do think that smelly hippies are inherently funny.

    I don't use a cloth bag because I'd have to use way more of them than seems rational to bring to a store, plus I use the plastic bags for hundreds of other things. Other than that, I'm neutral on the cloth bag. I used one in Japan, when my fridge could only hold one or two meals at a time anyway.

  • ||

    I was raised Presbyterian, and it was more about self hatred, really

    Holy original sin Batman. Where did you grow up JasonL? I was raised Presbyterian, and it was all about smiling at everyone ("Good to see you!") and finding a pretext to eat.

  • ||

    Which you probably purchased at a home-goods store. Ah, the market at work.

    Yep. The market is a beautiful thing. If people see value in choices they consider to be more environmentally conscious then more power to those that supply them with those choices.

    I've got no problem with people who use cloth bags, hemp bags, bags woven from their own hair - whatever floats your boat. Just leave me alone to make my own choices. Especially when the choice cannot be indisputably shown to cause harm to others.

  • ||

    joe,

    There are at least two problems with the "people won't do what's good for the whole society, only themselves as individuals, so we will force them to do what is good for all of society" theory: 1) we have little reason to believe that the people with the power to force us to "behave" actually know what is good for all of society, and 2) we have little reason to expect them to use that force to help all of society, and not just help themselves.

  • Russ 2000||

    The only environmentally superior choice is the economically superior choice.

  • ||


    Whole lotta Johah Goldberg disease on this site every time an environmental issue comes up.


    Well, let's face it - our society's environmental problems are among the most damning evidence that the libertarian philosophy of "everybody does what they want, and it will all magically work out" doesn't fly in the real world. So the dogma must be defended - the same folks who are very pro-science when it comes to the evolution/creationism debate or GM foods drop their "reasoning" ability when it comes to the environment.

  • ||

    "Well, let's face it - our society's environmental problems are among the most damning evidence that the libertarian philosophy of "everybody does what they want, and it will all magically work out" doesn't fly in the real world."

    Well, the libertarian charter originally said "everybody does what DanT wants and it will all magically work out," but then we found out you didn't like us.

  • ||

    Mock all you want, haters, but it's just less wasteful to reuse a cloth bag for a couple of years than to accumulate all of that paper or plastic.



    Since everyone else has explained that accumulating plastic bags has a practical use, I'll take paper:

    I was pretty young when my grandmother died, but one of my few memories of her (not counting the innumerable times she sent me outside to get a switch) was using paper grocery bags as a cheap sort of wallpaper. She covered the kitchen in Pic-Pac bags, and then painted over them.

  • ||

    Joe

    edna and gaijin's bile about people who dare to use cloth bags relates to force, how, exactly?

    You call it bile, I call it a satirical (however lame) statment about people who appear to be more interested in appearances of superiority. When we're all fully engaged in worrying about ourselves, then we don;t have time to worry about telling other people what to do. While I agree with you that regulation has it's place, plastic bags is not one of them.

  • ||

    our society's environmental problems

    A) You have to agree what the "problems" are. Landfills aren't one of them.

    B) There is pretty consistent agreement that commons issues are best handled by regulations of some sort. This typically includes whatever environmental "problems" are deemed worthy of being addressed.

  • ||

    I keep a couple of paper bags in the mix as well.I used one and an iron just the other night to get gum out of a pair of pants. They are very useful too. Isn't it great to have options?

    Dan T,

    I like reason in science debates, environmental or otherwise. I just question the reasoning of most environmentalists. Two trucks to pick up the same amount of garbage doesn't seem reasonable to me. Screaming about man made climate change when we know that half of North America was once covered with glaciers doesn't seem reasonable to me. Forcing more expensive choices on people that have a minimal impact at best on improving the environment doesn't seem reasonable to me.

    I would argue that the market is doing a pretty good job at providing more environmental choices. You want a cloth bag for groceries, they make them. You want a lower emission, fuel efficient vehicle, they make them. You want to buy local produce, you can. As more people make those choices more people will provide them. So use your time and energy convincing people those choices are better rather than forcing people to do things that may or may not make a difference.

  • Edward||

    It's idiocy like this that ensures we will never have to endure a libertarian experiment. Reason is the flagship of the loser fringe. Go Ron Paul!

  • ||

    (I'll hate myself for this, but...)

    Don't ban it. Tax it.

    Institute a tax on the plastic (and paper) bags themselves (at a rate proportionate to the 'impact' of each on the environment). The tax would be collected like the taxes on cigarettes, liquor etc. Of course, the price would go up. The retailer could either pass that cost on, to the consumer, or absorb it, depending on competitive conditions locally. The 'revenues' generated by the tax could be used to clean up the litter/landfills/et al created by the disposal. Or could just be used to fund whatever project the socialists think is more important.

    CB

  • Rhywun||

    In Germany, you pay for the plastic bags, so EVERYBODY brings their own shopping bag.

    Yes, and the plastic bags were considered more environmentally friendly than paper *over 20 years ago* when I was living there.

  • ||

    The next issue is going to be all the extra water that we are consuming to wash these reusable bags. What will be the solution to that one?

  • x,y||

    Cracker's Boy, please let us know when and where you'll be giving back your decoder ring.

  • Jennifer||

    Dan, you've really turned up the volume on the troll stereo lately. Is everything okay at home?

  • ||

    I would argue that the market is doing a pretty good job at providing more environmental choices.

    I'd say it's doing a terrible job at it. Our entire economy is set up around the burning of fossil fuels. Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?

    And let's not forget that the market doesn't just give people what they want, but via advertising and marketing it also makes people want what they sell.

  • ||

    Dan, you've really turned up the volume on the troll stereo lately. Is everything okay at home?

    Home's fine. Boring job.

  • ||

    "The next issue is going to be all the extra water that we are consuming to wash these reusable bags. What will be the solution to that one?"

    Depends on where you live, and no, I don't think washing canvas bags every once in a while will really become an issue.

  • ||

    x,y - they'll pry my decoder ring from my cold, dead... oh nevermind.

    I said I'd hate myself for suggesting it... but that goes without saying... I'm of western European descent... I HAVE to hate myself for something....

    But hey... if it's taxed, instead of banned, at least I still have a choice....

    What is that? Libertarian Lite? I'd rather that than no Libertarian at all. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

    CB

  • ||

    All this talk about plastic bags and nary a word about windbags. Would it be wrong to point out that plastic bags are the most cost efficient way to suffocate the Speaker of the House? She's from San Fran... conspiracy theorists weigh in now...

  • ||

    Our entire economy is set up around the burning of fossil fuels. Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?



    Our primary source of electricity is the burning of fossil fuels, so it's kind of a moot point.

  • highnumber||

    Anyone who doesn't have something terrible to say about dirty, smelly hippies has never been to Eugene, OR.


    Cracker's Boy,
    Re German intern
    Was she hot?

  • ||

    Highnumber.... although not likely, my wife MIGHT stumble across this blog.

    You decide...

    http://www.bjandtony.com/FamilyCarina.html

    CB

  • ||

    I'd say it's doing a terrible job at it. Our entire economy is set up around the burning of fossil fuels. Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?

    It's getting better all the time as more people like yourself demand those options. It's up to your side to convince people those choices are worth demanding. As more people demand it more people will supply it. I believe their is some kind of law that states this.

    And let's not forget that the market doesn't just give people what they want, but via advertising and marketing it also makes people want what they sell.

    As someone who works in marketing and advertising I only wish it were so easy. People buy stuff they want. Hummer has some great ads. I could afford a Hummer. I don't want a Hummer. I don't own a Hummer. You can tell me the McRib is the greatest invention in the history of meat - still won't buy one. A Camel ad in a magazine has never made a non-smoker rush to the store for a pack.

  • ||

    Dan-

    I thought this was your job?

  • ||

    I believe THERE is some kind of law....

    Sorry. I have the grammar skills of a retarded chimp. Which is why I work in advertising.

  • x,y||

    I'd say it's doing a terrible job at it. Our entire economy is set up around the burning of fossil fuels. Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?

    Then go start an electric car company. Do something great for the environment AND get rich.

    You can tell me the McRib is the greatest invention in the history of meat - still won't buy one.

    Sir, the McRib is the finest sandwich this side of, well, anywhere. And in true Joe Biden fashion, I mean that.

  • ||

    Matt, I can't help but point out that you're working in the marketing industry and yet trying to convince me that companies spend billions per year on ads, PR, and other marketing tools to no effect.

    And your first point was that the environmentalists need to convince others to demand more "green" products, which you admit is a very difficult job and of course the law of supply and demand takes supply into account as well.

    It might be easier and more effective to take the non-market approach and instead try to influence elected officials to pass stronger environmental regulations.

  • Robert||

    Why would you want anything in a landfill to decompose?

  • ||

    Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?

    No, they don't. Many people want a cheap electric car that goes 300 miles between fuel refills, takes only minutes to be refueled and can be refueled conveniently, has a top speed of at least 80 mph, and doesn't rely on an electric power grid whose chief source of fuel is fossil fuels.

    Now, where do they get that car? Well, when it is possible to build it, let me know.

  • ||

    "In Germany, you pay for the plastic bags, so EVERYBODY brings their own shopping bag."

    Looks like this would solve the problem.

    And what Cracker's Boy said.

    Just bitching and moaning about smelly hippies and fetishizing plastic bags...not so interesting. Other people who wash use reusable bags. I use my panier bags for just about everything.

    Pretty limp stuff here at reason today.

    And yes, I have a sense of humor, but when the humor gets mindnumbingly repetitive, I lose interest.

  • Jonny Swift||

    May I put forward a proposal that may go some way towards making at least some modest improvement in the plastic/paper/hemp dilemma?

    We should make our shopping bags from baby hide. Babies are clearly in surplus in this world of population bombs and fertility treatments. They've been dietary staples for generations, in the fashionable and green-conscious bistros of places like Dublin and Cork. We can take this a step further by using their supple skins for convenient and tasteful shopping satchels.

    When you go out and pick up your organic, fair trade capers and locally grown lemons from the farmers market to make the sauce for your baby picata, why not take it to the next level and bring your purchases home in baby-bags, the ultimate in environmentally conscious shopping accessories.

  • ||

    Jonny Swift:

    Do the hospital cafeterias in Dublin still serve market-fresh placenta? That stuff rocks.

    Still waiting for human caviar, though.

  • SIV||

    Many people want an electric car - where do they get one?

    Try here:
    http://www.eaaev.org/eaaevsforsale.html

    or here:

    http://www.austinev.org/evtradinpost/index.php?method=showhtmllist&list=classifiedscategory&rollid=17&clearoff=1

    Where do I get a flying car?

  • SIV||

    Damn it!

    I responded to him.

  • Jennifer||

    Do the hospital cafeterias in Dublin still serve market-fresh placenta?

    WHAT? That's a joke, right?

  • ||

    Yes Jennifer. It's a joke. Everybody knows it's just the JOOS that eat babies.

    CB

  • ||

    Matt, I can't help but point out that you're working in the marketing industry and yet trying to convince me that companies spend billions per year on ads, PR, and other marketing tools to no effect.

    Never said that. To someone that wants a big SUV a Hummer ad might be very effective. If you like pressed pork product sandwiches that McRib ad will get your mouth watering. If you smoke you might switch from Marlboros to Camels if you like the image Camel ad portrays.

    Good advertising doesn't try to create needs, it tries to convince you that a product or service fulfills a need you might have. And we spend billions figuring out what those needs might be. No successful marketer got up in the morning and said I've got to convince people they need X. Witness clear Pepsi. The successful ones find out what people want and give it to them.

    The famous ad quote is, "I know I waste half my ad budget. I just don't know what half." A lot of what I do is voodoo. Is the product popular because the ads work or do the ads work because the product is popular?

  • ||

    Jennifer:

    Unfortunately, yes. Instead, I'm forced to go to Wal-Mart for my placenta, and all they have is the cheap Chinese crap.

  • highnumber||

    CB,

    Not hot, but cute, judging from the pics. Looks like y'all enjoyed having her. :)

  • lunchstealer||

    Yes Jennifer. It's a joke. Everybody knows it's just the JOOS that eat babies.

    What do you think those communion wafers are made of? You think it's just symbolism when they call it 'the body and the flesh'?

    I'm forced to go to Wal-Mart for my placenta, and all they have is the cheap Chinese crap.

    Yeah, I got some of their "BabyBowl Meal" goo goo gai pan from their freezer section the other day, and you could tell that they'd over done it on the MSG.

  • ||

    Highnumber - you should see her in jammies... STOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOP.

    Anyway. She was a wonderful experience for us and a perfect guest. And now we have a friend in Germany we can visit. Oh... and she's a "finalist" (50,000 of 100,000 green card applicants) for the 2007/8 period. We think that means she's got a 50/50 chance of winning this time. She may be coming back! STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP...

    CB

  • Jennifer||

    The reason I asked about the placenta is because just a few days ago, while researching a story about some people who MIGHT be considered nutcases by some people, I came across an article about how placentas are the only meat product that vegans can eat, and hooray for Mother Gaia. The ultimate in recycling.

    There were actual RECIPES. Casseroles and whatnot.

  • ||

    I came across an article about how placentas are the only meat product that vegans can eat, and hooray for Mother Gaia. The ultimate in recycling.

    Offhand, I can't conceive of a moral basis that would make eating a placenta wrong. If it tasted good and was good for you, it certainly wouldn't bother me.

  • Jennifer||

    Offhand, I can't conceive of a moral basis that would make eating a placenta wrong. If it tasted good and was good for you, it certainly wouldn't bother me.

    I'm not saying it's wrong; I'm just saying (and you can quote me on this) "Eeeeeeew."

  • Jennifer||

    I just realized that I should have asked the placenta-eaters if they eat generic menstrual blood as well. Really, it's the same thing.

    Eeeeeew. Eeeew, eeeew, eeeeew.

  • ||

    Jennifer:

    I've heard tell of hippies eating their own child's placenta, on the theory that cats do it, so it must be okay. I always wondered if they might be myths, though.

    But if you're saying it's true, now I have to wonder if hippies really do occasionally eat their babies. 'Cause, you know, cats do it, so it's perfectly natural.

  • ||

    Wow. Here I am trying to talk up Libertarian Light to the great unwashed, and ya'll are going on about eating afterbirth. And the whole damn thread was about paper versus plastic.

    Maybe I should get back to work.

    CB

  • ||

    Jennifer, SNL covered the placenta cuisine back in the Radner days...

    Placenta Helper anyone?

    http://www.justblowme.com/showthread.php?t=19418

  • ||

    [Note to self: refresh a couple times before posting.]

    I just realized that I should have asked the placenta-eaters if they eat generic menstrual blood as well. Really, it's the same thing.



    Wow. I'm learning all kinds of disgusting shit about reproduction today.

    Plus, that would have been an awesome question! I would pay money to see their reply. (Probably some nonsense about placentas being imbued with the child's chakra energy or something.)

  • ||

    In the name of the environment, Baltimore, Oakland and New Haven should be banned in their entirety. At least from what I've seen.

  • Mike Laursen||

    1) we have little reason to believe that the people with the power to force us to "behave" actually know what is good for all of society, and 2) we have little reason to expect them to use that force to help all of society, and not just help themselves.

    You've precisely pointed out joe's blind spot.

  • ||

    Jennifer is right: 'Eeeeeew' doesn't translate to 'morally wrong'

  • ||

    San Francisco's latest attempt to become the most expensive American city to live in. Well done.

  • db||

    Fact: Today's landfills are designed to prevent decomposition of anything. Chances are your orange peel, milk carton and even last year's newspaper won't breakdown. Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.

    This is patently false. Modern landfills are designed explicitly to promote decomposition of their contents. This is how landfill-generated methane is obtained to generate steam and sometime electricity.

    The decomposition rate in some landfills is so great that the land subsidence is measurable in feet per year. This results in lower overall land dedicated to landfill usage.

  • Another Phil||

    I had read about placenta-eating a long time ago, with recipes and all. I know that all sorts of bizarre human behavior exists on the fringes, but I can't imagine that there are more than a handful of placenta eaters in the world.

    As a vegetarian myself, it's hard to imagine another vegetarian with such strong cravings for meat that they have to satisfy them by eating human flesh (although I'm sure it tastes like chicken). Go read a few issues of Vegetarian Times though (if it's still around), and you'll find out about all sorts of vegetarian craziness. Some vegans won't even make photographic prints because the emulsion on the prints is derived from animal products. As a vegan absolutist in my late teens and early twenties, I can assure you that if you buy into a self-destructive moral ideology, there is practically no limit to how miserable you will make yourself in the pursuit of moral perfection.

  • ||

    Jennifer would never eat a placenta - why bother when she has plenty of plump children who wander near her forest cottage to choose from?

  • Dan T.||

    I'm still gay, lol

  • ||

    But if you're saying it's true, now I have to wonder if hippies really do occasionally eat their babies.



    Apparently there is an urban legend to that effect floating around. Or used to be, anyway.

    The last time I heard it was about twelve or so years ago from a forty-something women who had been told it by a teacher at her high school. I don't know if he had told it as a joke or not but she had believed that it was true and continued to do so.

  • ||

    The thread you won't soon forget...no matter how hard you try.

  • Another Phil||

    Another thing I just remembered: I think that vulcanized rubber contains some animal product. It's simple enough for a young person living in a city to live without a car, but I think that older hippies simply learn to live with the guilt.

    P.S. I don't think that hippies are particularly funny. They're sad (when they're not being annoying). Though it's been a long time since I read it, Mark Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut's son) wrote a book called The Eden Express about his schizophrenic breakdown. He wrote about his constant sense of guilt for being a "bad hippie." I think it's a pervasive sense of guilt for simply existing, which is terribly sad because it's so unnecessary.

  • ||

    Don't have the time to do the research, but my understanding was that the consumption of the placenta after birth was pretty standard procedure among mammals, even human mammals until a few millennia ago. Just thought I'd bring that up.

  • Eric||

    I've been using reusable cloth bags for a couple of months now, and for the life of me I can't figure out why everyone doesn't. For a one time cost of ~$20, I get bags that have stronger handles, can hold more, have a couple of convenient pockets, and even a shoulder strap. Plus, they're reusable - so I'm confident that the net environmental effect is better than disposable paper OR plastic.

  • ||

    "Placenta Eaters" would be a good name for a band

  • ||

    "Anyone who doesn't have something terrible to say about dirty, smelly hippies has never been to Eugene, OR."

    I went to college in Eugene. I had dirty, smelly hippies as my roommates at one point -- Deadheads no less. Once was enough, though it was a memorable experience I was glad to have experienced, if only for the stories. The problem isn't what the hippies do -- they want to get stoned and have lots of unmarried sex and listen to The Doors ad nauseam, fine with me -- it's that they vote and try to foist stuff like Save The Planet By Not Using Plastic Bags on everyone else. Libertarian hippies are fine, but the majority are leftist statists.

  • Dirty Hippy Subconscious||

    Only cloth bags need fleet-fingered 7-year-old Chinese girls to sew them up.

    The dudes pushing buttons at the plastic bag factory look lazy.

    I must know that I am being properly served.

  • ||

    But if you're saying it's true, now I have to wonder if hippies really do occasionally eat their babies.

    Boomers, AKA ex-Hippies, plan on eating their babies to fund their retirement. Does that count?

  • ||

    x,y

    Where do you get the idea that "everyone" benefits if no one uses plastic bags? From the number of plastic bags one sees blowing around any developed area; from the figures about sea creature deaths that are easily available on the intertubes; and from the undisputed fact about the time it takes for them to break down. Pollution is a "public bad," the obverse of a public good.

    Surely, the people who use plastic bags disagree. As do plastic bag manufacturers. Surely the shepherds disagree that turning the common into a mudpit is bad, since they continue to graze sheep there. Do you know what the Tragedy of the Commons is, x,y?

    Want to tweak your argument at all joe?

    No, not even to the slightest degree.

  • Urkobold™||

    URKOBOLD HAS BEEN WATCHING YOU, JOE. HE HAS SEEN YOU USING DISPOSABLE PRODUCTS. YOUR PENALTY? DEATH.

    PLEASE REPORT TO THE BIG DIG FOR DISPOSITION.

  • ||

    1) we have little reason to believe that the people with the power to force us to "behave" actually know what is good for all of society,

    We have our minds and our capacity to debate and learn, don't we?

    2) we have little reason to expect them to use that force to help all of society, and not just help themselves.

    We have a democratic system that has demonstrated its ability to learn from and respond to mistakes.

    You can always count on people who don't want something to happen to believe that it cannot.

  • ||

    Yes, URKOBOLD, even plastic bags, on occasion.

    I try to keep it to a minimum.

  • ||

    ""Placenta Eaters" would be a good name for a band"

    As would "Joe's Indefatigable Cacophonous Outrage."

  • URKOBOLDIAN PRODUCT PLACEMENT||



    CLOTH TOILET PAPER!!!!!!!

  • Urkobold™||

    AS YOU CAN SEE, JOE, YOUR PATHETIC ATTEMPT TO ATTACK THE URKOBOLD WITH AMOK-RUNNING ITALICS HAS COME TO NAUGHT. DO NOT FEEL EMBOLDENED IN YOUR HYPOCRISY BUT REPORT TO THE BIG DIG FOR DIGPOSITION.

    CLOSE, VIKING MINION, CLOSE. TRY CLOTH CONDOMS.

  • URKOBOLDIAN BIRTH KONTROL||

    TUBE SOCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!!! lolz

  • ||

    As would "Joe's Indefatigable Cacophonous Outrage."



    Nah, too college radio.

  • ||

    To this: "2) we have little reason to expect them to use that force to help all of society, and not just help themselves."

    joe said: "We have a democratic system that has demonstrated its ability to learn from and respond to mistakes."

    True, if by "a democratic system" you mean "politicians" and by "mistakes" you mean "other politicians saying or doing something that leads to them not being reelected"

    The real "tragedy of the commons" isn't the effing plastic bags, it's the statist politicians who have a vested interest in advancing their careers even though almost everyone else suffers from their rational, self-interested choice to take away our choices.

  • Urkobold™||

    RUDENESS IS A COMMONS' ISSUE. THEREFORE, THE URKOBOLD PROPOSES LEGISLATION BANNING ALL RUDENESS. WHETHER A PERSON HAS BEEN RUDE OR NOT WILL BE DETERMINED SOLELY BY THE HEARER OF THE PURPORTED RUDE REMARK.

    THE PENALTY IS DEATH. REPORT TO THE BIG DIG, PLEASE.

  • Rude Heckler||

    blow it out yer ass, Urkel-bold. Yeah. [bonk bonk] taint made out of titanium-silicon alloy. Let's see you try to whither that.

    yeah! neener! tool!

  • ||

    No, jh, our democratic system is not "politicians." See, you might have picked up the difference between "system" and "people."

    The geniuses who created that system certainly did.

  • Urkobold™||

    TO MEMORIALIZE JOE'S MARTYRDOM, ZOD WILL RETROACTIVELY REMOVE BOSTON'S WORLD SERIES WIN IN JOE'S NAME.

  • ||

    Pshaw. Not even the Lord of the Trolls can match the power of the Bloody Sock.

  • ||

    "THE PENALTY IS DEATH. REPORT TO THE BIG DIG, PLEASE."

    I suppose I don't need to pack my toothbrush, then.

  • Doug Mirabelli||

    That red on the sock was nothing but paint,
    so shut your mouth if you value your taint!

  • Urkobold™||

    THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES SINCE 1918? THE URKOBOLD DOES NOT RECALL THIS. DOES ANYONE ELSE?

    ANYONE?

    PERHAPS YOU WERE THE VICTIM OF SOME MASSIVE HOAX. LIKE O.J.'S MARS LANDING.

  • Mike Laursen||

    They rarely go in the trash directly, but they usually do after the second use (often with dog poo or fish guts in them). Is there any bio-degradeable material out there that has comparable properties to plastic and is cheap to manufacture?

    Exactly. We use them to throw away the cat poo, to line our bathroom trash cans, and to bag up fruits and vegetables to put into our politically-correct cloth grocery bag.

  • Mike Laursen||

    We have our minds and our capacity to debate and learn, don't we?

    Yes, we as individuals do. But how does a city councilperson, or state legislator, or Federal office holder have enough mental capacity to learn the details of every nuance of everything going on in the area of their legislative jurisdiction? When do they have time to debate the fine points? Hell, they rarely even read the laws they are passing.

    Plus there is a presumption that a single decision or path can be chosen that is right for everyone. Why is it rarely decided that the best choice is to let each free person evaluate his or her own situation and make what he or she judges to be the best decision?

    Think of your favorite congressman for a second as a data processing device. Even if they were able to make amazingly wise decisions once they had gathered all the facts, do you believe they have the communications bandwitdh and data processing capability to gather all the relevant data they would need?

    Have you noticed that computer networks, the biosphere, business and trade all have as a basic working condition that they are highly distributed and decentralized?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Another thing, about democracy. You, the voter, have, for example, about 1 in 100,000,000 share of the decision-making power in selecting our President every four years. Same goes for your Federal and state legislators.

    They, in turn, have tremendous power over every aspect of your life. Doesn't this power relationship seem a bit unbalanced to you?

  • ||

    By the way... the local 'consumer advocate' was talking on his radio show today about a vehicle type called a plug-in hybrid.... finally, a technology that might meet my requirements. When fully charged, it's good for about 40 miles (my commute is 17 miles round trip... my wife's is 44). When it runs out of battery power, the gasoline (or diesel, I suppose) engine kicks in to recharge the batteries and power the electric motor, enabling it to go on forever.

    My complaint with electrics, up to now, has been... what happens when you drive to work, planning to drive home afterwards, and "something comes up" that would add distance to your commute, keeping you from making it home on one charge. This satisfies that condition.

    Now... at a reasonable price, it's worth considering... (if I can buy it in Hugger Orange, with racing stripes.)

    CB

  • ||

    I think the Tesla gets around 245 miles on a single charge. All yours for a little over $80,000

  • ||

    Mike Laurson,

    But how does a city councilperson, or state legislator, or Federal office holder have enough mental capacity to learn the details of every nuance of everything going on in the area of their legislative jurisdiction?

    They don't. Democracy is a lumbering beast, and sometimes goes off-track. However, its best feature is that democratic governments are very responsive when the public decides they have made a mistake.

    But your argument is certainly a good one for federalism and decentralization on many matters, as both the number and size of the issues will be smaller at the most local level.

    Why is it rarely decided that the best choice is to let each free person evaluate his or her own situation and make what he or she judges to be the best decision? Actually, it is usually decided that way. When it isn't, it is usually because there is the disparity of interests - the individual's interest in doing A, even when it produces harmful outcome B, so long as everyone else is free to choose to keep doing A - described so well in the tragedy of the commons.

  • Mike Laursen||

    But your argument is certainly a good one for federalism and decentralization on many matters, as both the number and size of the issues will be smaller at the most local level.

    As well as limiting the powers of elected officials.

    Actually, it is usually decided that way.

    I guess that's a subjective judgement. Note, though, that you are saying so in the context of a blog post about an example of a city government not trusting individuals to make their own decisions.

  • ||

    joe said, "No, jh, our democratic system is not "politicians." See, you might have picked up the difference between "system" and "people."

    The geniuses who created that system certainly did."

    I'm painfully aware of the difference, but the politicians running the show aren't closely following the theoretical system set up in the Constitution. They're peeing all over the Bill of Rights, frankly. And I was (snarkily) pointing out that in practice decisions are made by people, not by "systems", and I was rephrasing your statement to better reflect the statist views you've advocated in post after post.

    But, for you to have grasped what I was getting at would have required nuance and perception on your part, rather than taking a condescendingly superior tone while defending a bankrupt ideology.

  • edna||

    I mean - Explain to me again how plastic grocery bags aren't recycled.

    the vast majority aren't. most recyclers will not take #4 (ldpe and lldpe, the principal materials used in bag manufacture). some groceries will take them back and send them to a contract recycler (complete with taxpayer subsidy), but it's just plain uneconomic to recycle polyethylene without massive subsidies.

    warren, the inks used on food bags are astoundingly low in mass and even lower in toxicity. generally, they are zero v.o.c., 100% solids, a couple milligrams per bag, and compliant with coneg regulation.

    i'm glad someone understood my earlier point- this is so far down the list of real environmental problems as to be ridiculous. but it is visible, thus a perfect opportunity for exhibitionism. sorta like driving a prius rather than other hybrids because everyone can see that you care more about the planet than they do.

  • V Smoothe||

    In response to the last comment - California instituted a mandatory plastic bag recycling program for all grocery stores beginning July 1st. So here, at least, plastic bags are actually recycled.

    This fact, of course, was not of interest to the Oakland City Council, who passed their idiotic plastic bag ban partly on the basis of "no meaningful recycling opportunities" for them. I have written about Oakland's plastic bag ban repeatedly on my blog. This movement is simply another system of the resurging nanny city movements throughout the country these days.

  • ||

    What is this? Leave it to Canada to come up with the market solution?

    In Ottawa where I live now, the two major grocery chains both sell 99 cent reusable bags. The Loeb bags kind of suck, but the Loblaws (what IS it with grocery chain names? I miss Publix and Kroger) bags are amazingly good substitutes for plastic. They're cloth-like, roll up tiny, weight practically nothing, and they give you a 1 cent per bag discount every time you use them.

    But at the same time, whenever I buy some meat, the clerk will wrap it in extra plastic, or some dryer sheets, to keep them away from the groceries. You NEED some plastic bags. And they have a million uses, like people have already said.

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