Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Leave Plastic Alone! L.A. Moves To Ban Bags

Leave Plastic Alone! L.A. Moves To Ban Bags

While I'm one of those big hippie types who rather enjoys taking cans to be recycled (I did pay for that fucking CRV after all), and I'm all for a cleaner environment. You would think that the news that Los Angeles is looking to ban all plastic bags would get me cheerful. You'd be surprised to know I'm completely against the idea.

Here's a snippet of the NBC news coverage of it.
Los Angeles moved one step closer Tuesday to becoming the latest California city to ban single-use plastic bags.
The City Council voted 11-1 to tentatively approve a plan to phase out single-use plastic bags that includes a 10-cent charge for paper bags and regulations regarding the types of permitted reusable bags.

The plan would prohibit stores that sell perishable food from handing out plastic grocery bags. Stores would be required to charge customers 10 cents for using a recyclable paper bag.
Another vote to finalize the ban could happen as early as next week.
The county of Los Angeles and some cities in California, such as San Francisco and Santa Monica, already have plastic bag bans. A 2010 state Assembly bill that would have banned plastic bags and created standards for reusable bags, but the that legislation was defeated in the Senate.
The ban would go into effect Jan. 1 for large stores that make more than $2 million per year or occupy retail space measuring more than 10,000 square feet. For smaller stores, the ban would go into effect July 1, 2014.

It's shit like this that really get me annoyed;
"We've seen plastic bags clogging our gutters, polluting our rivers and piling up on our beaches," 
Councilmember José Huizar said in a statement. 
"The time for the City of Los Angeles to take action to protect our environment is now. And every big city in the nation can follow our lead."
This the part that I don't get. You're taking away plastic bags, but that's not solving the problem or creating a solution. You're simply shifting the problem. Instead of plastic bags clogging the gutters, polluting our rivers and piling up on our beaches and landfills, you're going to have paper bags taking their place. Even worse is that paper bags are even more useless than plastic bags when it comes to multi uses, let alone even for the intended use of groceries.

How many times has a paper bag's poorly constructed and glued on handles failed you by breaking or ripping off. Let alone the fact that they can not support the weight of most anything. With plastic bags people reused them for many different options. From lining the small trashcans of their bathrooms and kitchens, to cleaning up dog crap that their pet leaves on the sidewalk. All things that paper really can't handle and with plastic bags banned, people will have to buy specific bags for dog crap as well as far more spent on GLAD and other heavy duty trash bags - which are far less recyclable and far more intrusive to the environment to create.

And if that wasn't enough to paint paper bags in a poor light, how about the fact that you're still fucking with the environment. It takes 15,000+ barrels of oil to produce and transport 100 million paper bags. Add to that, the average American uses on average a 100-foot Douglas fir tree in paper wood products each year. Making paper bags creates 70% more air pollution and it's 50 times more water pollutant than making plastic bags. Want insult to injury, it doesn't degrade all that quickly compared to plastic bags in landfills either due to the nature that landfills are created in. The lack of exposure to air as it's stacked on top of each other without room to breath and decompose means that they don't break down very easily.

If you're going to ban plastic, then you really need to ban paper bags as well. And if the concern is that it's creating trash in the streets, then you know what the simplest and best solution that conforms with our capitalistic society is? You charge for the luxury of using either one. If you're going to charge 10 cents for paper bags, then you're not doing much more than lining the paper company's pockets. But if you give both options as a choice to the consumer, but add a CRV per plastic bag of say, five cents, then I bet you that you will never EVER see a plastic bag on the floor again.

Just think about the last time you saw a bottle or can on the floor. Not very often. That's because there's money to be made with the simple incentive of picking it up and taking it to the recycling center. If you started charging even three cents per plastic bag, but make the stipulation that you'll get the 3 cents back when you turn it into some collection center - then you'll see that it'll never be found on the floor again. And if it is, someone is going to pick it up to redeem it for some change.

It's a far better solution than simply cutting off the options of the consumer and creating a monopoly where only paper bag companies prosper. It's also a great option for those who do happen to forget their canvas reusable bags at home. Which aren't always there when you need them, let alone all that reliable for other reasons.

While I always seem to have at least one or two canvas bags in my trunk, I can see the problem with them. People are so use to a one and done system of carrying their groceries that they don't realize how much germs and bacteria fill a typical reusable canvas bag. Though I guess killing off humanity with a sort of super plague is one sure fire way to protect the environment from humanity.

Do you ban gas using cars and make the only option for Los Angeles between biking and public transportation? You wouldn't stand for that - though I know plenty of bikers who would welcome it. There is and should be a premium to be paid for the luxury of that. CRV is the way to go on that and you'll be generating income for the city through it. But banning something should never be an option for anything in a society that claims to be made up of freedom. 

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