Coronavirus

Plastic Bag Bans Do More Harm Than Good

Why are politicians suddenly cancelling their plastic bag bans? Because of COVID-19, of course.

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Recently, many politicians were in such a hurry to ban plastic bags.

California and Hawaii banned them, then New York. Then Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont passed laws against them. More than 400 cities did, too.

Why? Because plastic bags are evil, didn't you know?

"Look at the damage done by plastic bags! It is everywhere!" complained New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

A Washington state senator cited "videos of animals choked by plastics, tangled in garbage!"

So what should we use instead of plastic? Cloth bags! They're reusable! "Certainly the way to go!" said New Jersey's assembly speaker.

But now, suddenly, politicians are canceling their bans. Instead, they're banning the once praised reusable bags.

It's because of COVID-19, of course.

Reusable bags already brought bacteria into stores. We're supposed to wash them, but almost no one does. Studies found reusable bags crawling with dangerous bacteria. After plastic bags were banned in San Francisco, food poisoning deaths increased sharply.

But environmental groups, like Greenpeace, call those disease fears "misinformation."

"There are no studies or evidence that reusable bags are transmitting viruses," says Alex Truelove of the Public Interest Research Group, in my new video.

He's right. There are no human studies, but COVID-19 is so new. Millions of piglets died from swine coronavirus. The agriculture department concluded that reusable feed bags were probably the cause.

Still, even now, some politicians can't wait to ban plastic again. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says "as soon as this crisis is over we'll go back to all paper bags and reusable bags."

"Politicians are always just looking for something to do," complains supermarket executive Andrea Catsimatidis.

She points out that paper bags cost five times what plastic costs. "When you're talking billions of bags, it really adds up!"

And paper bags don't hold as much. They rip.

Plastic is more convenient. Why must politicians take away what's convenient?

"Over two-thirds of everything we use is not recycled or composted and ends up in a landfill," complains Truelove.

So what?

People think America is running out of room for landfills, but that's not true.

"All America's trash for the next century would fit in one landfill just 18 miles square," says environmental economist Ross McKitrick. Landfills take up so little space that "if you look the air you wouldn't even be able to see where landfills are."

And modern landfills hardly pollute. They're surrounded by layers of clay and plastic that keep nasty stuff in the garbage from leaking out.

But what about all that plastic in the ocean?

Plastic bags are sometimes eaten by animals. Some sea turtles mistake the bags for jellyfish and then starve. Islands of floating garbage have formed in the Pacific Ocean.

Green groups have convinced Americans that we are to blame.

But we aren't! Even if you litter—and today, fewer Americans do—your litter is unlikely to end up in an ocean.

Almost all the plastic in oceans comes from Asia and Africa. Less than 1 percent comes from North America.

In other words, banning plastic bags in America will accomplish roughly…nothing.

What it will do is inconvenience Americans and make some of us sick.

Truelove says, "We should…set an example for the rest of the world."

"That's posturing," replies McKitrick. "The rest of the world isn't looking to see what you do with your Starbucks cup.

"If we are concerned about other countries' waste going into their river systems," he adds, "there are better things we can do. We can share technology with them so they process their waste better. That's better than imposing on consumers' tiresome inconveniences in hopes that it will somehow change behavior on the other side of the planet."

Politicians "looking for something to do" routinely do more harm than good.

COPYRIGHT 2020 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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  1. Who could have imagined banning plastic bags was not such a good idea?

    1. Anyone with half a brain cell, which rules out all politicians.

      1. And most voters.

  2. How exactly does libertarianism plan on cleaning up our plastic clogged oceans.

    1. Do the oceans look clogged by plastic?

    2. “Almost all the plastic in oceans comes from Asia and Africa. Less than 1 percent comes from North America.”
      I would suggest you ask libertarians in Africa and Asia. Seeing those places did the polluting, it is up to them to clean up their mess. More than likely though it will be the Communist that have the power to do the clean up in those countries, and I doubt they are interested in cleaning up the mess they made.

    3. “How exactly does libertarianism plan on cleaning up our plastic clogged oceans.”

      Voluntary associations of people, funded by their contributions (which they can make because taxes are much lower in a libertarian society), develop and execute plans to cost-effectively remove existing plastic waste, and reduce disposal of future waste (mostly in Asia and Africa) by providing incentives for recycling and reuse, perhaps?

      1. Voluntary associations of people, funded by their contributions (which they can make because taxes are much lower in a libertarian society), develop and execute plans to cost-effectively remove existing plastic waste

        Also in a libertarian society entrepreneurs would be more free to innovate and may perhaps be able to come with a viable solution to skim plastic waste from the surface of the ocean and recycle it in a cost effective way.

        But why do that when you can just ban plastic bags and straws in first world countries while third world shitholes just keep right on polluting.

        1. “But why do that when you can just ban plastic bags and straws in first world countries while third world shitholes just keep right on polluting.”

          It’s so unfair that only foreigners get to pollute with plastics.

      2. But most people choose to live in non-Libertarian societies like America, China and such places.

      3. “……by providing incentives……..”

        No. No. No.

        Are you trying to create new bureaucracies? My god man, don’t we have enough people employed solely for the purpose of giving money to “incentivize” other people to do things that they won’t do anyway?

    4. There’s not enough plastic on Earth to clog the oceans.

    5. The same we we have cleaned up every other aspect of our environment – technological change spurred by economic growth and changing consumer preferences to buy from companies that brag about how green they are.

      Hopefully the developing world will abandon socialism and allow for the freedom and economic growth that will clean up their environmental mess.

  3. Formaldehyde; you forgot the reusable bags from Communist China that contained lots of formaldehyde.
    (Yes, THAT Communist China)
    And just for the record, the plastic bags hurt arthritic hands when full, and fall over in the car.

    1. Cloth bags do not fall over?

    2. the plastic bags hurt arthritic hands when full

      So that’s why the pink haired old ladies would always ask for paper when I worked in a grocery store back in high school.

  4. I got to say. This is one of the best things to come out of Covid. I hate plastic bag bans with a burning passion, and I’ve refused to shop at certain grocery chains for being too eager to comply with the damn regulation before. Everyone suddenly turning on a heel and setting things back towards convenience again is a bright spot in all the bad.

  5. I read an article where Bloomberg said that banning plastic bags has nothing to do with the environment. It is about hitting back at “big oil”. I’m pretty sure that article was in Reason.

  6. Alex Truelove

    Me, too.

  7. Obviously this is Fake News. Everyone knows that libertarians, conservatives, and other white nationalist rednecks, hate anything to do with Science.

  8. I took an Alaska cruise 2 years ago. I watched out for any signs of plastic in the ocean. Only once I saw a plastic cup at the shoreline. I crawled over a rocky seawall and placed it in the trash.
    80,000 tons of plastic would be lost in one cubic mile of seawater. I did the math.

    1. Ah, but don’t you know. That’s because plastic breaks down into evil microplastics. Which magically collect in fish digestive tracks without ever getting pooped out like other non-edible things in nature.

  9. My only complaint with the disposable bags is the size, you end up with 20 of them instead of 3 or 4 paper bags. Also in places where they have banned the plastic bags why don’t the stores do like Sam’s Club and bring up their empty boxes for the people to use? Seems like a win win they get rid of the boxes and you can fit more items in the boxes, and they fit in your car better to boot.

  10. Walsh is an irrational tool.

    Idiots who think paper is better than plastic need to go see a paper mill.

    Fools. We’re surrounded by fools and knaves. Worse, now they have power.

    1. Idiots who think paper is better than plastic need to go see a paper mill.

      I used to live ~50 miles from a paper mill. Whenever the wind came from that direction it smelled like someone had ripped the worst, most foul smelling fart you could imagine. And that was from 50 miles away. Kind of makes you wonder what kinds of chemical processes they were using to turn trees into paper. Whatever it is it’s probably a safe bet that it’s not exactly the cleanest thing in the world. How it compares to plastic manufacturing I don’t know but to just assume that because paper comes from trees it must be “better” for the environment than plastic is the height of first world naivety.

      1. ” How it compares to plastic manufacturing I don’t know but to just assume that because paper comes from trees it must be “better” for the environment than plastic is the height of first world naivety.”

        My sense is that reusing paper bags is preferable to single use plastic and vice versa.

        I think cloth is better than either plastic or paper for all my bagging needs. My favorite poet, William Blake, who wrote Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright!, referred to the places where cloth (and flour) was made as “satanic mills:”

        And did those feet in ancient time
        Walk upon Englands mountains green:
        And was the holy Lamb of God,
        On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

        And did the Countenance Divine,
        Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
        And was Jerusalem builded here,
        Among these dark Satanic Mills?

        Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
        Bring me my arrows of desire:
        Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
        Bring me my Chariot of fire!

        I will not cease from Mental Fight,
        Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
        Till we have built Jerusalem,
        In Englands green & pleasant Land.

    2. They’ll smell it long before they see it. Unless it goes Boom! like that one in Maine from a digester exploding. Christ, I can only imagine the mess from that.

    3. Cloth is a good material for bags. It’s been used to make clothing for thousands of years. It can be washed repeatedly without significant wear and tear. I use cloth bags when shopping and have found them to be more than adequate.

      1. Good for you. I prefer plastic bags because I can reuse them as trash can liners or to pick up after the dogs without having to buy additional bags or water to wash them.

        Choice. it’s a good thing.

          1. Not always. Depends what you’re reusing.

  11. I had an ADULT tell me ban plastics because turtles.

    Good luck trying to explain to them all this theatre is based on things that happen elsewhere like Asia and that their decision to not use plastic water bottles is futile.

    And if you manage to ‘win’ the point, they’re just gonna conclude ‘yeh, well they’re bad’.

    It’s just a cult now.

    1. Can the average human intellect ever do better than cult? Since most of what people “know” is factually wrong, and since most “reasoning” is by emotion and highly distorted by cognitive bias, the chances of people reaching any level of objective understanding are extremely limited.

      Instead, we have partisan tribalism and group-think. In other words, cults.

  12. Clearly the most enlightened authoritarian policy is to ban all bags. I mean, who really needs bags? We use them for mere minutes and then discard them–so wasteful. Containers, too. Why can’t our betters just feed us with huge piles and vats of whatever EPA and FDA compliant foodstuffs the state farms produce? We can just cycle down to the feeding station, stand in line for 6 hours, and then receive our daily rations.

    1. I hear they’re going to raise the chocolate ration to 20 grams a week!

  13. We have always been at war with Oceania

  14. All over the world, people re-use plastic bags to line wastebaskets at home. They are used as toilet paper recipients throughout South America. When those bags are banned, we simply have to go out and spend money on bags in little boxes.

    The bags should be bundled and burned for their energy value or simply dumped in landfill in Texas, which could fit in trash from around the world for 1000 years. It’s a giant step backward for mankind to have to pick through and sort garbage. It might help to find out that Coronavirus came from garbage or foolish recycling.

  15. Jimbino
    May.6.2020 at 5:19 pm
    All over the world, people re-use plastic bags to line wastebaskets at home. They are used as toilet paper recipients throughout South America. When those bags are banned, we simply have to go out and spend money on bags in little boxes.

    The bags should be bundled and burned for their energy value or simply dumped in landfill in Texas, which could fit in trash from around the world for 1000 years. It’s a giant step backward for mankind to have to pick through and sort garbage. It might help to find out that Coronavirus came from garbage or foolish recycling.

  16. Living in a plastic bag ban town I bought 100 plastic “t-shirt” bags from Amazon. I have so many uses for them. But I’m not using those ones thanks to the pandemic and since the stores aren’t charging for plastic bags I’m taking twice as many as I need and saving them for the next wave of plastic prohibition.

  17. I live in a very flat part of the country. The landfill is the only hill around.
    I remember reading about a community somewhere that turned a finished landfill into a park for children. They named it “Mt. Trashmore”.

  18. Mr. Stossel! What a silly wabbit!

    We ban plastic bags because we just KNOW they’re bad, that’s why! I ask myself, “Self, what do you know for suresies and I always answer: “Plastic bags is bad!” We just know these things, don’t we?

    I typically then throw in other sure-fire knowns, just to help me feel like, super-righteous: Green is good. Sun is good unless it’s bad and sometimes sun is bad. But since Green is fed by CO2 does that mean CO2 is also good…especially when combined with sun? Isn’t that what makes plants grow and thrive (lots of sun and CO2, enough water)? But we also know CO2 is bad. So if we eliminate CO2 that would be good, until it’s bad and all plants die. Hmmm. What do do?

    I suppose there’s always Brawndo…it’s got what plants crave!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFD2ggNxR1g

    In the meantime, sure, definitely plastic bags is bad; no question. That’s why all the supermarkets buy them, because they want to be bad. No? Wait. They buy them because they’re super cheap and more durable than paper? Because they’re far more sanitary than reusable cloth bags that sit on the floor of the car, get thrown in the closet to collect dust which is then combined with food debris to create a tasty bottom bag petri dish for all kinds of goodly things?

    What to do? What to do!
    I’ll go get a tattoo:
    Plastic Baggins is Bad….and Reusable is Precious!

  19. Hippies in Bisbee, AZ succeeded in banning plastic bags some years ago. I was talking to a local shop owner. She was a hippie too but not a completely fried brain. She said it made grocery shopping a pain because you were forced to use paper or reusable bags. Plus it hampered small business owners for the same reason. Buy her products but BYOB.

    Stanhope mocked the city at a public meeting and feigned choking with a plastic bag on his head. Great YouTube viewing.

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