Recently, the City of Los Angeles decided to ban the use of plastic grocery bags, ostensibly for the purposes of reducing litter and being good for the environment. Jay Beeber over at Reason.com explained clearly this week why it is a pointless regulation, other than to make some leftist enviromentalists feel better:
There’s a crisis in Los Angeles. Is it the city’s projected $250 million budget deficit? The city’s $10 billion shortfall in pension obligations? Its crumbling infrastructure? A public school dropout rate approaching 50 percent? No, the City of Angels is facing catastrophe in the form of grocery bags.
Proponents give three reasons for the bag ban. They claim it will reduce the amount of waste entering landfills, reduce litter on streets, and “help protect the environment.”
- California’s Statewide Waste Characterization Study [pdf] shows that “Plastic Grocery and Other Merchandise Bags” consistently make up just 0.3 percent of the waste stream in the state… The effect of eliminating free grocery bags on the amount of waste generated in the city would be insignificant.
- Litter studies from across the country demonstrate that, on average, plastic retail bags make up about 1 percent to 2 percent of all litter.
- L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation claims [pdf] that “approximately 12 million barrels of oil go into the US supply of plastic bags.” But plastic bags made in the U.S. are not derived from oil; they’re made from a byproduct of domestic natural gas refinement.
…reusable bags being touted as a “green” alternative carry their own environmental costs.
- reusable woven bags are primarily produced in China and imported to the U.S. on cargo ships which burn millions of gallons of dirty low-grade fuel oil. Because they’re made of mixed materials, these reusable bags can’t be recycled and will eventually end up in landfills, unlike plastic grocery bags which are fully recyclable.
- In a recent study by the University of Arizona, almost every bag sampled contained large amounts of bacteria… The public is being instructed to wash these bags after each use, which will require huge amounts of energy and waste precious water.
Beeber closes with an excellent question for all free peoples:
Is it a legitimate role of government to prohibit one individual from giving a free bag to another individual on the pretext of a supposed societal benefit that does not withstand even friendly scrutiny? Doesn’t every human interaction, no matter how small, have some arguable effect on society? And if so, what’s to prevent those who seek to dictate how everyone lives from invoking that argument at every turn? The crisis in Los Angeles and around the country is that too few people are asking those questions.
- LA becomes largest US city with plastic bag ban (usnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Reusable bags blamed for norovirus outbreak (mega949.com)
- Jay Beeber on L.A.’s Foolish Ban on Plastic Bags (reason.com)
- Crazed Anti-Baggists Proposals Will Lead to Deaths (economicpolicyjournal.com)