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Old 05-20-2019, 01:07 PM
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Why plastic bag bans aren't as great as everyone thinks


Just heard an interesting interview on NPR. Their conclusion was that plastic bag bans were not great for the environment. Reasons:

1. When they were banned, sales of plastic bags went up. Small ones by 120%. Medium bags by 60%. And the bags that were sold were made of thicker plastic. In other words, people use the plastic bags for other things.
2. In terms of carbon footprint, paper bags are four times worse than a single plastic bag.
3. A person would have to reuse a cotton tote bag 7,100 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make it better for the overall environment. And organic tote bags are even worse.

So what would be better? From the interview:

"The main thing I took away from this research is that the most environmentally friendly thing you can do - and everybody agrees here - you should reuse the same bag over and over again. Now, that bag should probably not be organic cotton. Use one that's, like, polyester or a somewhat durable plastic. So that's kind of what you can do in your personal life.

But then there's kind of the broader policy question. Taylor thinks a fee is smarter than a ban. That's because they're both equally effective when it comes to the goal of encouraging reuse."
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Old 05-20-2019, 01:26 PM
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1. People have always used the plastic bags for other things. But now we reuse them time and again and again, before using them for other things.
2. The problem has never been the carbon footprint, it's the lack of reusability, recyclability and degradability. On one hand the flimsy plastic bags we used to get in supermarkets ripped between "Hail" and "Mary", and on the other they stay around forever, unusable but there.
3. Not 7100 times more, just 7100 more time. See: the cotton tote actually lasts usable longer than a sneeze.

Last edited by Nava; 05-20-2019 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 05-20-2019, 01:34 PM
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Usually there's not a very comprehensive impact study done; you get some politician or activist with an ax to grind against plastic bags- usually due to the littering aspect, since a lot of people are just trashy jerks who discard them and they blow around into trees, lakes, rivers, etc... and don't degrade like a paper bag would.

Or worse, you have people doing it on stuff "that everyone knows", like the idea that because plastic bags are plastic, that they're automatically and incontrovertibly worse for the environment than paper, because paper is renewable and biodegrades. They either don't bother to do the research, are skeptical of the truth/believe in "alternative" science, or are just ignorant.

I'm pretty sure the one-time Dallas bag ban (since repealed) was the first- a city councilman got a bee in his bonnet about it, and a bunch of activists harangued the city council until they enacted it... spectacularly badly.

Austin's bag ban is almost certainly rooted in the second set of reasons, since that place is a hotbed of virtue-signaling about environmentalism, etc... without actually being concerned about it, and not somewhere very well grounded in reason, science and clear-thinking.
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Old 05-20-2019, 01:40 PM
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I don't think that the carbon footprint of a plastic bag was a major reason for advocating for their banning or taxes on them. Here in DC, the major issue was that plastic bags had been a pervasive form of litter, leading to the slogan, "Skip the bag, save the river."

It seems to have been a smashing success here, as the number of bags cleaned up has dropped by four-fold after the bag tax went into effect.
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Old 05-20-2019, 02:47 PM
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Yeah, it's the "found in the guts of dead whales" problem bag bans are directed at, not "carbon footprint."

The most effective way -- by far -- to reduce carbon footprint is to end animal agriculture. That would be vastly more effective than carping about bag bans.
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Old 05-20-2019, 02:53 PM
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Litter was the main argument in the California bag ban. Chain link fences along the freeway rights of way were filled with shredded plastic bags.

When we are in SCal, our BIGGEST problem is remembering to bring bags with us into the store. That means buying more bags. The bags at home get stuffed into bags, and they breed. We got the damned things filling the pantry and stuffed into bare corners everywhere. You feel guilty for throwing them away!

The typical plastic grocery bag, pre ban, was perfect for so many things. They fit perfectly into small trash cans kept in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if you encountered something goopy and nasty, just grab a bag and throw the whole mess away.

Since the reusable plastic bags that you pay for are bigger and heavier, you can throw away bigger, goopier messes.

Once people are forced to move to another home because the breeding reusable bags have taken over the house, maybe the ban will be rescinded.


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Old 05-20-2019, 05:35 PM
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Nava wins it.

I use heavier plastic totes, again and again and again. I also have cotton totes and burlap totes that I use over and over. I can tote books with them, I can use them as an overnight travel bag. They hold heavy groceries and the jars of tomatoes and jam that I make to give as gifts. I have two insulated totes that I got at Trader Joes; they keep cold stuff cold and warm stuff warm. When I think about all the flimsy plastic bags I haven't used over the years because I switched, I know that my change has made a tiny contribution to a greener world. And that thought just made my day.

Are flimsy plastic bags better than heavier totes in the long run? I don't think so. I much prefer the reusable tote, with the exception of one thing: cat litter. I still use plastic bags to line my garbage bin because of cat litter. I've tried to come up with other ways to get rid of the stuff but I haven't found one that really works. Suggestions are welcome.
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:21 PM
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I have two heavy canvas bags that I bought from Trader Joe's in 2005. They're old enough that now the cashiers there comment on my "vintage" bags.

California's bag ban, however, seems to have so many exemptions that I wonder if it makes much of a difference. They're gone from grocery stores and big box stores, but if I get take-out from a restaurant it still usually comes in a plastic bag. When I go to the hardware store, including big warehouse style ones like Lowe's, they still provide disposable plastic bags. I imagine grocery and big box stores constitute the majority of most people's shopping, so it probably greatly reduced their use, but they're far from gone.
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
I don't think that the carbon footprint of a plastic bag was a major reason for advocating for their banning or taxes on them. Here in DC, the major issue was that plastic bags had been a pervasive form of litter, leading to the slogan, "Skip the bag, save the river."

It seems to have been a smashing success here, as the number of bags cleaned up has dropped by four-fold after the bag tax went into effect.
Here is info on the drop in California.
Quote:
Litter data from the Coastal Clean-up Day, held annually in September, shows a substantial decrease in plastic grocery bag litter, corresponding with the implementation of local and ultimately the statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags.
“For decades, plastic bags were one of the most common items collected during the annual California coastal cleanup,” said John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources. “This year, as California continues to transition to reusable bags, we are seeing a substantial decline in plastic grocery bag litter on beaches, rivers and parkways.”

As recently as 2010, volunteers documented more than 65,000 plastic bags littered along California beaches and rivers during the annual clean up, accounting for 7.4% of all items littered, 3rd most prolific behind just cigarette butts and fast food packaging.

By the 2016 clean-up, with better than 40 percent of the state covered by local bag bans, plastic grocery bag litter had dropped by 66%, accounting for less than 2% of items littered.
I have had no trouble remembering to bring bags to the grocery store. I keep a few in my car, just in case. The conference I'm involved with gave them out, and I got extra being on the committee. I can guarantee they were very cheap, but they've lasted at least five years with no signs of wearing out.
Unless you work for a plastic bag company, I just don't understand being against a ban.
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
I have two heavy canvas bags that I bought from Trader Joe's in 2005. They're old enough that now the cashiers there comment on my "vintage" bags.

California's bag ban, however, seems to have so many exemptions that I wonder if it makes much of a difference. They're gone from grocery stores and big box stores, but if I get take-out from a restaurant it still usually comes in a plastic bag. When I go to the hardware store, including big warehouse style ones like Lowe's, they still provide disposable plastic bags. I imagine grocery and big box stores constitute the majority of most people's shopping, so it probably greatly reduced their use, but they're far from gone.
My hardware store, an independent, doesn't give out bags. I see the fast food case, since the bag is likely to get stained.
I suspect grocery stores generated most of the bags, and it is not as easy to remember bringing your own bags to the bookstore or Macy's, but I can deal with it.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:25 PM
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Yeah, it's the "found in the guts of dead whales" problem bag bans are directed at, not "carbon footprint."

The most effective way -- by far -- to reduce carbon footprint is to end animal agriculture. That would be vastly more effective than carping about bag bans.
Cite?


https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/20...ph_a_23027151/


...reducing your family size by one person does far more to reduce pollution and tackle climate change than every other measure put together, saving 58.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions each year..

.Giving up your car was the next most effective measure, ....

Next on the list were aeroplane travel ... investing in green energy ...Going vegetarian


That has it fifth. But even that's wrong. Because normally animals do graze on plants. It's the feedlots and overgrazing that's the issue. reducing your meat consumption is a good idea.

Here:https://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/
It has Eat locally-produced and organic food ranked over
I...
Cut the beef and dairy....
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:26 PM
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Litter was the main argument in the California bag ban. Chain link fences along the freeway rights of way were filled with shredded plastic bags.

When we are in SCal, our BIGGEST problem is remembering to bring bags with us into the store. That means buying more bags. The bags at home get stuffed into bags, and they breed. We got the damned things filling the pantry and stuffed into bare corners everywhere. You feel guilty for throwing them away!...
Just keep some in your car.

The other issue with plastic bags was they they blew out of trash trucks and dumps.
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Old 05-20-2019, 11:20 PM
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Just keep some in your car.
Oh, we have.

And then we go on a big shopping trip, use up the bags (feeling oh so virtuous), and after we haul all the new crap into the house and put all the groceries away, we don't make the extra step to put the bags back in the car.

Part of our personal problem, is that Mr VOW and I spend half our time in SCal, and half our time in AZ. AZ has no bag ban yet, and during our trips there, we get spoiled by receiving all those neat free bags!

I even bring bunches of them back to SCal to my daughter, to replenish her supply.

Meanwhile, in her pantry, in the open corners of her house, and in the little hidey places amongst the crap in her garage, the reusable plastic bags are congregating and breeding...


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Old 05-21-2019, 12:47 AM
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I use plastic produce bags to make grafts of plants. Just cut a circle, and put it over the stock to be grafted...then pull it firmly down onto the rootstock and tie with nursery tape.

One bag gives me material for 8 grafts. I cut 8 individual circles out of a single bag. Works really well!
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Old 05-21-2019, 04:29 AM
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The most effective way -- by far -- to reduce carbon footprint is to end animal agriculture. That would be vastly more effective than carping about bag bans.
Actually, several other things rate higher than plant-based diets at reducing carbon footprints. #1 is having one less child, by an order of magnitude, but infanticide is kinda frowned on, so practically, the best thing one could do is live car-free. One could also avoid air travel (Skipping one trans-Atlantic flight/year is twice as good as an entire year living meat-free.) but living car-free is 4 times better at least.

ETA: I see DrD also addressed this.

Last edited by MrDibble; 05-21-2019 at 04:32 AM.
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Old 05-21-2019, 05:42 AM
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If you weren't planning on having kids or travelling trans-Atlantic anyway, how does one judge the impact? Surely, if we're going down that route, refraining from pouring out huge quantities of oil into seabird colonies while cackling maniacally is even better for the environment.

It's extremely hard to judge anyway, the direct impact of agriculture is one thing, but would the land be restored to a carbon sink if it wasn't being used for farming, or would it be used for something else?

Anyway, I'm off to not set fire to an oilfield, to offset the impact of a long car journey this weekend.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:20 AM
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Actually, several other things rate higher than plant-based diets at reducing carbon footprints. #1 is having one less child, by an order of magnitude, but infanticide is kinda frowned on, so practically, the best thing one could do is live car-free. One could also avoid air travel (Skipping one trans-Atlantic flight/year is twice as good as an entire year living meat-free.) but living car-free is 4 times better at least.

ETA: I see DrD also addressed this.
Rather than bump off a kid, you could you know, just not have one more.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:43 AM
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I work for a grocery store chain that's very popular in this part of the country.

A few years back, I visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. They have a permanent exhibit about Puget Sound. One of the displays they had was the stomach contents of a gray whale that had beached and died a few years prior. Gray whales don't chew their food - they just swallow whatever happens to find its way into their mouths, which includes a lot of our litter, and it jams up their digestive tracts to the point where they can't survive. There was all kinds of crap in there - blankets, aluminum cans, juice boxes, and other flotsam. But what really got me was that a lot of it, like a plurality of it, was plastic grocery bags.

And a lot of those bags had my store's logo on them.

That's why I support bag bans - because, as an employee and shareholder, I feel personally responsible for killing that whale, and any number of other creatures that have choked on the bags we've offered to people that have let them wind up in the sea.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:52 AM
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Rather than bump off a kid, you could you know, just not have one more.
The study, as I understand it, is on the effectiveness of measures to reduce one's current carbon footprint, not how to avoid having a big one in the first place.

No, I'm afraid it has to be medical experiments for the lot of them.

Last edited by MrDibble; 05-21-2019 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:06 AM
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The bans also often limit themselves to just grocery stores, so they don't really cut down on the littering aspect of it. A plastic bag from an office supply or record store can become litter just as easily as one from a grocery store.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:02 AM
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The bans also often limit themselves to just grocery stores, so they don't really cut down on the littering aspect of it. A plastic bag from an office supply or record store can become litter just as easily as one from a grocery store.
You've had two cites in this thread that littering is indeed greatly reduced after bag bans/taxes.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:10 AM
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The bans also often limit themselves to just grocery stores
Not in Europe, bans affect every store. Takeout restaurants aren't affected directly because they don't count as stores, but the cultural shift means that they tend to offer bags rather than give you one without asking.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:48 AM
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Surely the thing to do is ban manufacture and import, rather than just sales?
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:48 AM
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I work for a grocery store chain that's very popular in this part of the country.

A few years back, I visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. They have a permanent exhibit about Puget Sound. One of the displays they had was the stomach contents of a gray whale that had beached and died a few years prior. Gray whales don't chew their food - they just swallow whatever happens to find its way into their mouths, which includes a lot of our litter, and it jams up their digestive tracts to the point where they can't survive. There was all kinds of crap in there - blankets, aluminum cans, juice boxes, and other flotsam. But what really got me was that a lot of it, like a plurality of it, was plastic grocery bags.

And a lot of those bags had my store's logo on them.

That's why I support bag bans - because, as an employee and shareholder, I feel personally responsible for killing that whale, and any number of other creatures that have choked on the bags we've offered to people that have let them wind up in the sea.
Wow. That must have been equal parts saddening, infuriating and terrifying to see as an employee.
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Old 05-21-2019, 12:00 PM
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Cite?
Livestock's Long Shadow

Technically I misspoke -- ending animal agriculture is the best single thing you can do for the environment overall*, not specifically carbon footprint.

(*leaving aside catastrophic population reduction, which would be unpleasant)
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Old 05-21-2019, 12:20 PM
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I have a hard time believing that a paper bag is so much worse without them really cherry picking data.
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Old 05-21-2019, 12:30 PM
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I started using the reusable bags several years ago and I am now just getting to the very bottom of my "bag drawer". We're talking 15+ years of bags, which I use daily to empty the litter box. For those who have indoor cats and don't use plastic bags, what do you use? Paper? Need answer fast
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Old 05-21-2019, 01:05 PM
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(Skipping one trans-Atlantic flight/year is twice as good as an entire year living meat-free.)
I'm having trouble understanding how they figure that. If I cancel the trip to Greece I booked for this summer American Airlines isn't going to cancel that flight. They're more than likely going to sell that seat to someone else. The plane is still going to fly that route and burn just as much fuel, I just won't be on it. Worst case (from the airline's perspective), they don't manage to sell that seat to another passenger and the plane leaves with an empty seat. But the effect of having one fewer passenger on the plane's fuel burn is pretty much negligible.

Is the idea that if lots of people all decide to travel less, airlines will respond to the decrease in demand be scheduling fewer flights?
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Old 05-21-2019, 01:20 PM
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When we are in SCal, our BIGGEST problem is remembering to bring bags with us into the store.
I can understand forgetting the first few times after the plastic bag ban went into effect, but after that, you're just not trying.

We keep a half-dozen bags in the trunk of our car. When we shop and bring the bags into the house, we empty the bags and then hang them on the front door handle. Then, the next time someone walks out the front door to go to the car, they grab the bags off the door handle and put them back in the car.

This is not especially difficult.
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Old 05-21-2019, 01:22 PM
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Is the idea that if lots of people all decide to travel less, airlines will respond to the decrease in demand be scheduling fewer flights?
Of course it is. These issues are problems to deal with in the aggregate, but they still require individuals to change their behavior.

Sure, cancelling that trip you've got planned next month won't, by itself, change anything. But if you do that, and thousands of other people do that, and if we all make a determined effort to make fewer flights, then over time that will have an effect.
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Old 05-21-2019, 01:30 PM
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I have had no trouble remembering to bring bags to the grocery store. I keep a few in my car, just in case.
I do have trouble remembering. They aren't required here, but I bought some reusable fabric bags, anyway. It's been a while, and I'm still hit or miss or remembering to take them. And sometimes when I remember to put them in the car, I forget to get them out of the car when I walk into the grocery store. I know once I get in the habit, it'll be a habit, but it's been over a year since I bought the first bag, and I just haven't made it part of my routine yet.

Also, boy are the bags different quality. Forgot mine one day last year and picked up an Easter-themed one in Publix, and it is so much flimsier than the regular Publix bag I had.

Still, I support moving away from plastic bags. I had tons of them in my cabinets, even excluding the ones I threw away or recycled. One grocery trip was two or three months worth of plastic bags - and I shop every week.

I admit, I like my straws with beverages with ice, though.

Last edited by Tzigone; 05-21-2019 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:00 PM
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I am one of the people inconvenienced by the plastic bag ban.
I used to use them for everything. Taking my lunch to work,
lining the cat trash, collecting the mess after brewing soup to take to the garage, whatever.

I already had invested in reusable super-market bags before my town banned plastic, so I used to only take bags when my stash was running low.

Now I buy plastic bags for the cat trash, use the flimsy produce bags or purchased kitchen trash bags for the soup-remains, and I'm carefully hoarding my supply of better-quality plastic bags for carrying lunch and other "clean" stuff. And yes, people have started to comment on my "vintage" plastic bags.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smapti View Post
I work for a grocery store chain that's very popular in this part of the country.

A few years back, I visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. They have a permanent exhibit about Puget Sound. One of the displays they had was the stomach contents of a gray whale that had beached and died a few years prior. Gray whales don't chew their food - they just swallow whatever happens to find its way into their mouths, which includes a lot of our litter, and it jams up their digestive tracts to the point where they can't survive. There was all kinds of crap in there - blankets, aluminum cans, juice boxes, and other flotsam. But what really got me was that a lot of it, like a plurality of it, was plastic grocery bags.

And a lot of those bags had my store's logo on them.

That's why I support bag bans - because, as an employee and shareholder, I feel personally responsible for killing that whale, and any number of other creatures that have choked on the bags we've offered to people that have let them wind up in the sea.
Yeah, this is why I grudgingly am okay with bag bans. Honestly, I don't think the bags I got were part of the problem. They were carefully stored in my kitchen until re-use, and filled with heavy stuff before being put in the trash, and I'm sure they made it intact to the landfill, where they are pretty harmless.

(and bacteria are already learning to eat plastic. I suppose things in landfills don't rot, but plastic bags that make it to the soil will be gone in 50 years.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by WOOKINPANUB View Post
I started using the reusable bags several years ago and I am now just getting to the very bottom of my "bag drawer". We're talking 15+ years of bags, which I use daily to empty the litter box. For those who have indoor cats and don't use plastic bags, what do you use? Paper? Need answer fast
Buy a box of cheap plastic bags the right size for your needs. If you fill them with litter waste, they won't blow loose and cause the environmental problems that bag bans address. It's not a major carbon problem, nor a "we will have these horrible things forever problem", so don't feel guilty about it. Just be careful to keep your bags from blowing into the trees or the ocean.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:07 PM
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Yeah, it's the "found in the guts of dead whales" problem bag bans are directed at, not "carbon footprint."

The most effective way -- by far -- to reduce carbon footprint is to end animal agriculture. That would be vastly more effective than carping about bag bans.
People havent stopped eating meat, how is it helping if you cut out meat animals? Mass disturbance in the force will follow for sure.
Lots of unemployment too.


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Just heard an interesting interview on NPR. Their conclusion was that plastic bag bans were not great for the environment. Reasons:

2. In terms of carbon footprint, paper bags are four times worse than a single plastic bag.
how does that happen? Trees regrow but that oil that produces the plastic bags will disappear for a few million years...what about all the plastic bottles out there too??
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:18 PM
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...how does that happen? Trees regrow but that oil that produces the plastic bags will disappear for a few million years...what about all the plastic bottles out there too??
Paper bags weigh more than comparable carry-capacity in plastic bags, so they cost more (oil) to transport. They are also somewhat energy-expensive to produce. I think it's entirely plausible that paper bags use as much carbon, on average, as plastic bags.

And yes, those plastic bags will disappear in well until a few million years. I'm guessing we will start having trouble with plastic "rotting" in my lifetime.

BUT paper bags don't produce trash problems, because they break down quickly when they get wet. So no whale is going to choke on a plastic bag. If they get tangled in trees or fences, they will degrade, and fall down on their own. And they rot pretty quickly today -- no bacterial evolution needed.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:52 PM
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Paper bags weigh more than comparable carry-capacity in plastic bags, so they cost more (oil) to transport. They are also somewhat energy-expensive to produce. I think it's entirely plausible that paper bags use as much carbon, on average, as plastic bags.

And yes, those plastic bags will disappear in well until a few million years. I'm guessing we will start having trouble with plastic "rotting" in my lifetime.

BUT paper bags don't produce trash problems, because they break down quickly when they get wet. So no whale is going to choke on a plastic bag. If they get tangled in trees or fences, they will degrade, and fall down on their own. And they rot pretty quickly today -- no bacterial evolution needed.
Paper bags also hold more than plastic ones and are usually (around 80%) made from a traditional lumber mills waste stream.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:53 PM
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Another negative consequence is that this law may be a form of slacktivism, i.e. a feel-good action that doesn't make much difference in the world, but makes people feel they've done their share of good. It's like signing an online petition. Nothing wrong with the action in itself, but the problem is, it gives people an excuse to not do anything more.
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Old 05-21-2019, 03:08 PM
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I'm having trouble understanding how they figure that.
It's the effect on your carbon footprint. The calculation is for you as an individual, not the total carbon budget.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:41 PM
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Gray whales don't chew their food - they just swallow whatever happens to find its way into their mouths, which includes a lot of our litter, and it jams up their digestive tracts to the point where they can't survive. There was all kinds of crap in there - blankets, aluminum cans, juice boxes, and other flotsam. But what really got me was that a lot of it, like a plurality of it, was plastic grocery bags.

And a lot of those bags had my store's logo on them.
I'm firmly convinced that Walmart changed from the distinctive blue bags they used years ago to white ones because the blue ones were so easily recognizable in trees and in barbed wire fences.

It's telling that the first city in Texas to pass a plastic bag ban was Brownsville--not exactly the most progressive town in the state. But it's windy as hell down there, and wind and plastic bags don't mix well. Fort Stockton, also not a progressive town, was also an early adopter of a bag ban. It's windy there, too. And beach towns liked bag bans.

But the Texas legislature passed a law prohibiting cities from having bag bans. They don't like the feds telling them what to do, but they like telling cities what to do. Oh well.

I've been using my own bags for decades. I keep them by the door and they go into the car with me. If I forget them, I just go back to the car to get them. It's not that big of a deal, and I get more compliant after that trek.

I also take my own to-go containers to restaurants, for my own leftovers. Reactions have slowly shifted from shock and puzzlement to occasional appreciation.
  #39  
Old 05-21-2019, 07:12 PM
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I admit, I like my straws with beverages with ice, though.
Banning plastic straws is one of those environmental policies that sounds like a good idea, but is really just window dressing that makes some people feel better while doing basically nothing (and I mean, almost literally, nothing) to help the environment.

Plastic straws account for an infinitesimally small percentage of the plastics that end up in the world’s oceans, and of the overall amount of plastic waste created in the world. Not only that, but the more than half of the plastic waste fouling up the world’s oceans comes from five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Source report.

While advanced economies like the United States need to make efforts to produce less plastic waste, and to deal with it better, America is responsible for only a tiny percentage of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans. According to a 2015 article in Science (you need to be a member, or have institutional access, to see the article), the United States ranks far behind the above-mentioned countries, and many others, in terms of mismanaged plastic waste. The United States, according to the report, adds about 40,000 - 110,000 metric tons of plastic to the ocean each year, while Indonesia adds about 480,000 - 1.2 million tons, and China contributes 1.32 - 3.53 million tons. (If you don’t have access to Science, you can see the data table reproduced in this Reason article).

A few cities banning plastic straws basically has no effect on this at all.
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:21 PM
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It’s pretty clear that we use a lot of plastic and that it has spread even to the impossibly remote parts of our environment such as the Marianas Trench and marine and island wildlife. The solution is not clear nor easy so it’s hard to blame people wanting to start somewhere by reducing straws and plastic bags. Like many problems, the initial solutions can be inadequate.

I have no idea what the real statistics are for cost and carbon and biodegradability. I’ve seen different numbers used. It makes sense to consider how often something is reused (both potentially, and in practice). It makes sense to look at the alternatives.

Like many places, many Canadian stores started charging five cents per bag. I don’t doubt this has reduced the number folks take home. I try and reuse bags but throw them away when they are soiled. More expensive bags can be used more but can easily become unhygenic over time depending on use. Paper bags have their uses but there is a reason fewer places offer them these days - it’s hard to carry a bunch of them, they are pricier, they aren’t always sturdy. It is easy to criticize people who want to use fewer straws or bags, or stop you from using them as much, but one has to start somewhere.
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  #41  
Old 05-21-2019, 11:30 PM
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Livestock's Long Shadow

Technically I misspoke -- ending animal agriculture is the best single thing you can do for the environment overall*, not specifically carbon footprint.

(*leaving aside catastrophic population reduction, which would be unpleasant)
That's a extremely long article, mind quoting and citing just the relevant part?
  #42  
Old 05-21-2019, 11:31 PM
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...

Is the idea that if lots of people all decide to travel less, airlines will respond to the decrease in demand be scheduling fewer flights?
Yes, of course. Less passengers, less air miles.
  #43  
Old 05-21-2019, 11:54 PM
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I started using the reusable bags several years ago and I am now just getting to the very bottom of my "bag drawer". We're talking 15+ years of bags, which I use daily to empty the litter box. For those who have indoor cats and don't use plastic bags, what do you use? Paper? Need answer fast
Use the bags bread comes in. That's what I used when I had a cat. I didn't throw them out until they were mostly full. If they're not full yet, give the top a twist or two to keep the odors in, and leave it near the litter box. With one cat, the bag wouldn't get full for about three days.

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I have two heavy canvas bags that I bought from Trader Joe's in 2005. They're old enough that now the cashiers there comment on my "vintage" bags.
Hey, I can top that. I bought my cloth bags in the early 90s, maybe one of them in the late 80s. The store I bought mine at is no longer in existence. I have three, although two of them were misplaced in a recent move. They're in a box somewhere around here.

But I don't use all three anyway, any more. For the last 11 years, I've been bicycling to the grocery stores and hauling most of them home in a backpack. It's just a few items like bread that I put in a cloth bag and more or less hang from the handlebar. So I don't use more than two at a time now. For the second bag, I have a coth bag I got at a trade show which is big enough for my needs.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:56 AM
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Banning plastic straws is one of those environmental policies that sounds like a good idea, but is really just window dressing that makes some people feel better while doing basically nothing (and I mean, almost literally, nothing) to help the environment.
It can make a noticeable difference locally. Although some of the plastic that's washing up on beaches round here has come from other countries, most of it's just from the local area, often from right up the beach. The attention given to the straw ban round here seems to have had a pretty big effect on local littering, even if it's mostly acting as a reminder rather than having a direct effect.

I mean, I've been to Java, and I've seen the crazy amount of plastic wasted and dumped there (ordered a drink in the airport in Jakarta- it came in a plastic cup, with a plastic sealed lid, with a plastic straw in a plastic wrapper, all in a plastic bag... and I was sitting at the table, not taking it away). But even though there's so much more of that, the bit blowing down the beach here is more likely to wind up in the stomach of our local sea life, and that's still worth trying to stop.
  #45  
Old 05-22-2019, 02:44 AM
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more than half of the plastic waste fouling up the world’s oceans comes from five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.[...]America is responsible for only a tiny percentage of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.
Err, it's not that simple. All America's done is offshore its actual dumping. That doesn't absolve it of responsibility, any more than offshoring any other horrible practice does
  #46  
Old 05-22-2019, 12:28 PM
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In Hawaii, when the plastic bag ban first went into effect, stores did exactly what was cited in the OP, they went to heavier biodegradable bags (increasing the sales of those) and while some stores would charge 5 or 10 cents for them, the bigger chains just used them as usual. Judging from the others at the checkout lines, most people (including myself), just carried on as usual either taking the free bags or paying the 5/10 cents for them.

Realizing the original ban didn't work out as a planned, last year the State added a new law banning all plastic bags (restaurants and small stores are still exempt) completely by 2020, and are required to charge 15 cents for any bag, big or small, even if it's paper. Longs Drugs, our local CVS affiliate doesn't even offer any bags, other than the reusable cloth bags they sell at the checkout at all.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:33 PM
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If the idea was to control a litter problem that would be one thing, but usually these bans also start a mandatory charge for paper bags. That produces a backlash and give people the idea the intent is to control their behavior by punishing them for wanting something convenient, not to actually control litter.

I still by furniture from IKEA but once they got all greeny-pants and stopped offering any kind of disposable bags I quit buying trinkets there. Too much hassle trying to get a dozen loose articles out to my car with only my arms. As a society we've progressed beyond having to haul reusable bags, bottles, and whatnot all over creation so I'm not about to start now.
  #48  
Old 05-22-2019, 12:56 PM
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If the idea was to control a litter problem that would be one thing, but usually these bans also start a mandatory charge for paper bags. That produces a backlash and give people the idea the intent is to control their behavior by punishing them for wanting something convenient, not to actually control litter.
The reason for the mandatory charge is to cover the case where people forget to bring bags, or choose not to. Would you prefer that no bags at all are available?
And the behavior being controlled is littering.
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:35 PM
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...reducing your family size by one person does far more to reduce pollution and tackle climate change than every other measure put together, saving 58.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions each year...
Sorry Timmy, but we drew names out of a hat and it has to be you. Mother Earth will thank you in heaven.

Last edited by Omar Little; 05-22-2019 at 04:36 PM.
  #50  
Old 05-22-2019, 04:40 PM
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It can make a noticeable difference locally. Although some of the plastic that's washing up on beaches round here has come from other countries, most of it's just from the local area, often from right up the beach. The attention given to the straw ban round here seems to have had a pretty big effect on local littering, even if it's mostly acting as a reminder rather than having a direct effect...
That shocks me. I doubt that one single straw I have ever used ended up in the ocean. I can't even think how that would happen. It's not as if the wind picks them up and blows them away.

Unlike the bag bans, which I grudgingly accept as probably helpful, the straw bans strike me as stupid. And when I want to use a straw, no, I DON'T want some biodegradable thing that will dissolve as I am trying to enjoy my drink. I grew up with paper straws, plastic straws were an enormous improvement. I've recently been given a "biodegradable plastic" straw and a paper straw with drink. You know what, they still suck.

After the paper straw started to decay in my cappucino-to-go, I threw it out, took another paper straw, and waited until I was done with the liquid, and then used the straw to enjoy the rest of the foam. That mostly worked, except it had an unpleasant flavor of brown paper that didn't really play well with the coffee.

And no, I'm not going to carry a metal straw and a little brush to clean it. I mean, really?! Maybe if I become disabled and require a straw to drink at all I would do that, but there's no way it's worth it just to enhance my enjoyment of a drink.
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