As a Southern California native, I took great interest in the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decision to save the world by passing an ordinance that bans plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.
The ordinance also mandates that these same stores must impose a ten cent charge for each recyclable paper bag they give their customers. I assume the ten cent charge for each recyclable paper bag will go directly to the Los Angeles County coffers, which will be used to help pay for all those gas-guzzling maintenance vehicles I see on the streets and highways. Heh.
Meanwhile, affected families that average twenty paper bags of groceries per month will now end up paying $24 more per year. And while that may not seem like a lot of money to you or me, I can assure you it means a lot to people on limited or fixed incomes.
Why do plastic shopping bags continue to get such a bad rap? Why is it still chic to pillory them? Frankly, I’m getting a bit tired it.
I am quite certain many people would be shocked to know that plastic grocery bags are arguably a better environmental choice than paper.
In fact, the Wall Street Journal observed that the choice between paper and plastic comes down to which environmental issue you think deserves the most attention.
You’d be right to argue that paper bags produce less litter, but plastic bags have their benefits too. Oh yes, Virginia, they most certainly do.
Don’t believe me? Well, the Wall Street Journal notes that plastic bags require significantly less energy and water to make. Not only that, but they also produce less greenhouse-gas emissions.
I’m certainly not ashamed to admit that I love using plastic shopping bags to carry my groceries. After all, they’re durable, lightweight, moisture resistant, and reusable.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the humble plastic bag is that they make toting groceries such a breeze. For instance, I can carry six or eight plastic bags full of groceries in two hands, which minimizes the number of trips I have to make when I get home from the car to the house. Try doing that with paper bags.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But, Len, if you really cared about the environment you’d use an eco-friendly reusable bag.”
Really? Well, they have their problems too.
For example, many inexpensive store brand reusable bags aren’t very durable, hold minimal grocery loads, and are anything but eco-friendly.
Even worse, Britain’s Daily Mail reported this summer that tests on reusable “eco-friendly” shopping bags revealed traces of the deadly E. coli bacterium on fully half of those sampled.
If that isn’t enough, just this week the New York Times disclosed that many reusable bags imported from China were recently found to contain potentially unsafe levels of lead.
With all that in mind, can somebody please tell me again why the humble plastic shopping bag is still maligned by so many people?
As for me, when it comes to paper, plastic or eco-friendly reusable bags, I’ll proudly choose plastic every time.
So put that in your pipe, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Just don’t smoke it; we’ve got enough air pollution here in Southern California already.