These days there are increasing publicity of the great Pacific garbage patch. Which includes quite a variety of different kinds of garbage including plastic bags. There are also reports of animals choking on plastic bag litter in oceans, beaches, rivers, and shorelines. As a result of the bad publicity governments of countries or localities are thinking of way to make themselves known to correct this problem. The solution they have is to simply institute a ban on the bags. Though many past experiences indicate simply banning something doesn't necessary make the problem go away and more often than not had negative results. The bag bans instigated in different areas has already proven it.
1. Forcing the masses to adopt a new way all at once has always caused new problems in the past. Plastic bag bans causes backlash in areas that instigated them as large amounts of population using plastic bags mass switchover to other kinds of bags which actually increased Greenhouse emissions as bags other bags cost the environment more to produce. Cloth bags has there own environment problems as well so they are not a cure for all.
2. Does not necessarily decrease bag litter pollution, San Francisco banned plastic shopping bags in 2007 but their plastic litter actually increased over the years according to litter audits. The population would be buying larger thicker more expensive bags when they need it for trash or other purposes and increase garbage burdens.
3. A one size fit all fines would not be big enough to deter large revenue retailers but would seriously hurt small businesses who accidentally break the rules. In fact for a large business the cost to bring stores in line with the ordinances such as investment for mass switching over to another bag type, retraining bagging clerks, profit loss due to people buying less, sharp increase in shoplifting actually far exceeds the cost of paying the fine amount daily. In other words a large company can pay the fines everyday which is usually set in the hundreds to no more than a thousand dollars and still lose far less than the losses they suffer to comply with the ordinance.
4. Many times the ordinance focuses on defining a particular type of bag. Bans can often be circumnavigated completely in many jurisdictions by just buying thicker bags than the bag defined by ordinance. This is what happened in San Francisco after the 2007 ban and happened in a number of municipalities with similar bans. Lucky Supermarkets in San Francisco just switched to "reusable" plastic bags 2.25mm thick and continued business as usual.
5.Banning plastic bags would not reduce dependence on oil. According to American Chemistry 80% of bags in the US are made of Natural gas not oil.
Environment and practical Alternatives to plastic bag ban
- Public education of littering bags and what it does to the ocean and alternatives such as reusing, disposing properly, recycling, and composting
- More aggressive garbage cleanup of litter efforts from areas near water
- Instead of giving fines have hefty Incentives for stores to recycle bags, purchase recycled bags, buy biodegradable, compostable bags, or award customers reusing bags just like National chains Whole foods and Trader Joe's.
- At most apply a ban only within ten miles of the ocean or in other environmentally sensitive areas.
- Try to attack the source of the problem first which is the bag industry by offering incentives with time limits to meet better environmental goals by producing more eco friendly bags just like with the fuel economy stands CAFE sets goals for vehicles in the future.
These alternatives remember they are only good if done evenly. Forcing an all round switch to compostable bags might actually increase litter than reduce it as people might think ok to litter. Best if done along in a balanced measure with recycling programs. Also remember it is important to take one step at a time. This includes focusing on the major bag givers such as Supermarkets and grocery stores first who gives out ten or more bags per customer and often the source of bag pollution as some jurisdictions jump in to attack the problems in all retailers and possibly include restricting paper bags as well this would only result in difficulty to make any difference and may cause backlash. Retailers other than supermarkets and grocers give so little bags maybe holding $100 worth of purchases in one bag hardly contribute to litter so diverting their attention to them would only divert attention away from the reason for the program. Not to mention increases the chance of theft. In other words for large stores just like with big oil companies the cost of getting up to code often far exceeds ignoring it and paying the fine. So in conclusion I think it is better to educate people to be more responsible about using bags and most importantly take one step at a time and never rush to a solution all at once.