Don’t ban plastic bags!

Learn the facts about plastic versus paper bags – and bag the bans, instead

Hal Shurtlef

Like dozen towns and cities in Massachusetts and other states, Boston recently enacted a ban on plastic shopping bags. It went into effect December 14, 2018. It was a relatively easy vote, because “evil” plastic bags have received extensive bad press that generally ignores important facts.

The same holds true in other jurisdictions, especially those controlled by Democrats who a generation ago cared about American workers, but today too often subjugate the needs of blue collar families to demands by college educated and environmentalist elites, and even noisy grade school kids.

For example, when Los Angeles was talking about banning plastic bags, employees from a business that manufactured plastic bags spoke in person to the city council, begging it not to ban their products. The company employed hundreds of low-skilled people, paid them well and gave them excellent benefits. Many of the employees had worked there for years because they were treated so well.

They presented rational, factual information about their plastic bags. But the city council enacted the ban anyway, put the company out of business, and left the employees jobless, some of them likely homeless.

And of course it’s not just plastic bags. Los Angeles just banned plastic straws, and the state legislature is preparing to ban the straws statewide. Santa Barbara, CA banned all single use plastics: no more plastic forks, spoons, knives, Styrofoam cups and take-out boxes. Paper and cardboard only, from now on.

It is all social engineering and fake environmental protection by decree.

Here are some essential facts that you and government officials need to consider carefully in the future.

Plastic shopping bags made in the United States are made from natural gas, not oil – and America has at least another century of natural gas right under our feet. Moreover, plastic grocery bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags. In fact, it takes far more raw materials and fossil fuel energy to grow and harvest trees, make pulp and turn it into paper bags, than to make plastic bags.

Manufacturing plastic bags also consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags. In the process, plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases per use than paper or cotton bags.

It then takes seven trucks to deliver the same number of paper bags that a single truck can haul if the bags are made from plastic. That means it also takes far more (mostly fossil fuel) energy to transport reusable and paper bags than it does to transport plastic bags.

EPA data show that plastic bags make up only 0.5 % of the U.S. municipal waste stream. Plastic bags are 100% reusable and recyclable, and many stores make that process simple.

Reusable and paper bags take up far more space than plastic bags in landfills, and the airless environment of landfills means paper bags do not decompose for years, or even decades.

Most reusable bags are made in China and Vietnam, then shipped to the USA in fossil fuel burning cargo ships. Reusable bags are made from heavier and thicker plastic or cotton, which takes more energy to produce, even if it’s recycled fabric or plastic. A reusable bag must be used no less than 132 times before having a “greener” environmental impact that a plastic grocery bag.

Reusable bags aren’t recyclable, and reusable bag giveaways are environmentally costly when unwanted bags end up in the dumpster, often after one or even no use.

Research from Arizona has determined that few people wash their reusable grocery shopping bags, 8% of reusable bags harbor E. coli bacteria, and nearly all unwashed bags harbor other pathogenic bacteria.

Some stores have seen declines in business. One Solana Beach, CA business saw a 25% decline in business following the implementation of a plastic bag ban. A Grocery Outlet Store told a Portland, Oregon newspaper that it lost over $10,000 to shoplifters walking in with and using their own reusable bag to exit with merchandise without going through checkout lines.

Other stores reported losses of hand-carried plastic and metal grocery baskets due to bans.

Following Seattle’s ban, store owners surveyed post-ban reported seeing their costs for carryout bags increase between 40 and 200 %

The City of Boston implemented its ban in defiance of the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section, 8, Clause 3, the Commerce Clause, and the Massachusetts Constitution, amended Article 2, which prohibits municipalities from enacting private or civil laws governing civil relationships. Other governments have no doubt ignored U.S. and state laws and constitutions in enacting their bans.

They are often enabled by entities like the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), a United Nations subdivision founded in 1990 to implement the goals of Agenda 21, now called Agenda 2030. Massachusetts Green Communities, and Vision Boston 2030 have all labeled plastic bags a “public enemy,” despite the above-mentioned facts.

Bad science and emotionalism lead to bad laws. But you can take steps to stop the madness.

Read and use the “Bag the Ban” flyers that our Camp Constitution organization developed. Watch our video on plastic versus paper bags. Write to me at

Contact your elected officials, and demand that the bans be lifted.

Refuse to pay the 5 to 10 cents per bag that your city forces store owners to charge.

Encourage store owners to fight the ban. If enough of them worked together, bans could be overturned. The Texas Supreme Court has overturned bans on plastic bags. Other courts could do likewise.

We all care about our environment and planet. But we should be protecting those values from real dangers, employing actions that actually work.


Hal Shurtlef is a life-long Boston resident, US. Army Veteran, Member of the Sons of the American Revolution, father of five homeschooled children, director and co-founder of Camp Constitution.


193 thoughts on “Don’t ban plastic bags!

  1. Nice article, thanks. Two queries: 1. Source of “132 times”? 2. Texas Supreme Court’s explanation?

  2. Oh come on. Why wouldn’t I want to pay more to have a negative impact on the environment and, potentially, health. It’s the right thing to do. /sarc (for those that missed it)

    • Environmental emotionalism in action where the fix increases the environmental footprint. My rule of thumb is: if it is forced to cost more, it likely has a larger environmental footprint. (more labor, energy expended, natural resources used, regulatory oversight, etc.)

      • Farmer wrote:
        “My rule of thumb is: if it is forced to cost more, it likely has a larger environmental footprint. (more labor, energy expended, natural resources used, regulatory oversight, etc.)”

        This is a valid general assumption. I wrote something like this years ago re “green” energy.

        Everything we manufacture in the modern world requires energy (incidentally, ~85% of global primary energy is fossil fuels, unchanged in decades, and the rest is nuclear and hydro, and green energy is less than 2%, despite many trillions in squandered subsidies).

        When something costs more, it is generally because it requires more energy to produce and ship – it also generally produces more CO2 emissions.

        When a product requires a lifetime subsidy, like wind power, solar power, corn ethanol and other biofuels, it probably consumes more energy that it produces and also increases CO2 emissions rather than reducing them. Green scams can hide their greater CO2 emissions with their standard misinformation, but they cannot hide their greater costs.

        Most green schemes are so poorly conceived that they not only cost more, they also increase CO2 emissions (FAKE pollution). They also increase REAL pollution, especially solar power and battery power schemes, due to the waste products of manufacture and scrapping of solar power hardware and batteries.

        So my general rule is:

        Science and technology are complicated, and most politicians are too uneducated to understand even the basics. They have routinely imposed green energy schemes that are not green and produce little useful (dispatchable) energy. They have also banned products and replaced them with environmentally worse products. They are susceptible to bribes, especially to support their re-election – and many of these people would be unemployable outside of politics. All too often, we are governed by scoundrels and imbeciles.

        • To Allan Macrae,

          I would add to your excellent analysis another indicator for determining the true energy cost of a energy providing system:

          Find examples of energy production systems which use the output of these exact systems to power their own production processes.

          For instance, in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the oil extraction process is ultimately used to derive diesel, gasoline, and petroleum liquids after transport of the crude oil South through the pipeline.

          However, the production process needs lots of energy at the wellhead in Prudhoe Bay to operate. It is cheaper (more efficient) to have a small on site diesel fuel refinery nearby the wellhead to supply the energy needs of production than to ship an equivalent amount of end product back North after refining it in the South.

          This is a perfect example of the efficiency of the operation.

          The challenge is to find a single wind turbine production facility solely powered by a wind farm, or a solar photovoltaic plant powered only by solar cells.

          I’ll wait…

    • Plastic bags stuck to trees & fences every where in North America is a blight. No one reuses them…off to the landfill. The sooner they are gone forever the better…I hate litterbugs.

  3. Some politically-connect schnook has a bag business and bribed these bureaucraps to ban free plastic bags to force people to BUY bags!!

    • Sounds like Al Gore goading “Dubya” into signing that stupid legislation that essentially banned the incandescent light bulb, to “pump” the value of his “compact fluorescent” light bulb manufacturer stock.

      • Five years ago, I bought 250 incandescent bulbs at a cost of about $0.25/each, mostly 60W. I now have 235.

      • Exactly!! And all the building codes requiring “high efficiency” (recessed) light fixtures which cost an average of about $90.00 when a comparable incandescent costs about $20.00. Add all the other “green” energy regulations such as mandated solar panels in CA … and suddenly the cost of housing spikes to unaffordable thresholds. And then, Gavin Newsom charges the CA taxpayers MORE NEW TAXES to fund “affordable” housing.

  4. But banning single-use plastic bags isn’t about energy use and CO2 – it’s about the plastic in the plastic bags ending up in the ocean. So all the statistics provided showing plastic bags to be an environmentally-sound solution from a CAGW / CCC perspective are useless in the “bad plastic bags are polluting the oceans” argument.

    • Maybe not. But if someone were to equate the savings in CO2 (in cars taken off the road) for using plastic over paper that would be fun counter argument to throw in the mix.

      Maybe you can explain how my plastic bag or straw in AZ makes its way to the pacific ocean. Ban on plastic is just another tool of the liberal left to control the populace and make their sheep feel good. The ignorance of the left is just staggering.

        • And maybe you could answer valid arguments without resorting to ad hominems and conspiracy theories about the Big Bad Left. Just a thought.

          • Yes, that is the argument that has been so widely made in the UK, with the vigorous assistance of the BBC. Maybe a dodgy “study”, and a TV program by Sir David Attenborough showing a dead seagull inside a plastic bag is about all it takes to win the argument.

            They’ve already done the same with plastic micro-beads. Chuck some of them into a fish tank and then examine the fish gut under the microscope and, lo and behold, you can see some of them in the fish gut. Because they were looking for them. No proof that they actually cause any more harm than other indigestible solids in the environment, many of which persist far longer than plastics. If they wanted to, they could also find microparticles of silica and other sediments too inside the fish. But they don’t want.

            And as soon as they get one product banned, they simply move on to the next. No end in sight. At some point somebody has to refuse them. I would have thought a group of manufacturers and other interested parties might have got together by now to at least try and put out some truths which are so often ignored. But it seems they are all cowards, even when the end game is clearly aimed at destroying their businesses.

          • Whether we throw away plastic grocery bags or plastic glad bags it is still plastic in the environment.

          • You don’t need dodgy studies. The Daily Mail article with David Attenborough spouting his climate garbage displayed a map clearly the maximum anomalies in the Arctic region bounded by a complete circle of lower differential. This means the heat source had to be inside that region but the message was uncompromisingly that fossil fuel use in the US and the EU was the cause of that heating. Makes Orwell’s 1984 nightmare seem so prosaic compared to the brainwashing that is now an everyday occurrence.
            Also am I being sold or given all sub standard plastic bags as I did an experiment in which I buried a collection of bags from several sources and not one lasted five years let alone a thousand as claimed.

            As to how the plastic makes its way to the ocean I can tell you for one particular plastic product picked up by a friend in the pacific as it had a local firm’s logo but was part of a consignment never actually used as it was oversized for the containers.
            It was sent for recycling supposedly done in the far east and the currents from the nearby estuary takes it into the regions where it was picked up.

      • You do have a point. In some places like Australia, almost everyone lives near the coast, and plastic bags will end up in the ocean. I approve of the ban here. Using my own insulated bags, I keep my shopping cool (sometimes hot) on my drive home, so that’s an additional benefit. Spraying with antiseptic once in a while is not arduous to reduce germs.

        Mostly it’s developing countries strewing plastic waste everywhere, however. Only rich countries actually have the time and resources to care, so it does not help very much. I do love our seas here in Oz, so will do what I can anyway, though.

        • But those bags didn’t end up in the ocean! I watched their propaganda carefully and even the worst of the eco-loons were extremely careful with their words:
          1. There is a lot of plastic in the ocean
          2. Australians use [insert large made up number here] plastic bags.

          Note how careful they were not to directly state that Australian plastic bags went into the ocean.

          • Recall the statistics on the primary source of trash in the ocean. I recall that a very large percentage of the total is from five rivers in Asia. In engineering, one learns to apply resources and effort where the return is greatest. Plastic and other waste in the ocean is a problem but it is not related to and should not be considered in discussion of 99% of US waste streams.

            Banning specific items is over reaching Nanny State and likely has unintended consequences. We are better in this instance getting people to think about their usage. I detest the pile of trash from a visit to a fast food joint but the foam boxes are recyclable and the replacement plastic coated paper boxes are not. I never need a straw and seldom need a bag. It’s difficult though getting past the checkout without the cashier putting your single item in a bag.

          • Mark is correct re the sources of almost 90% of the trash in the ocean; deceloping nations use their rivers as open sewers.

            Most of the plastic in the oceans, though, are plastic trawling lines lost by commercial fishermen. If you want to eliminate plastic in the oceans, that’s what you should ban.

          • And not only is most of the plastic waste in the Pacific from China, but a lot of it is ironically plastic that we recycled here and is not properly handled on its way or in China. The biggest step we could take to reduce plastic in the Pacific is to stop recycling.

        • There are no plastic bags in Australian harbors or beaches. Hobart for a week, not one. Melbourne beaches; where are they? I keep looking but nothing. It’s bullcrap. Get a life pal! Hey stop driving your car and buying packaged food. That may do something . . .

        • When you go to an Australian beach, one in a highly populated region like St Kilda Beach, Melbourne, or Manly, Sydney, you are NOT confronted with loose plastic shopping bags littering the landscape as if they were a recent, unwanted bad. The beaches remain among the finest in the world.
          Sure, some plastic bags will find a path to the sea, but you and I as onlookers need not take the advice of other interested parties that they are a clear and present danger needing a ban.
          There would need to be many, many bags in the sea to create anything like a crisis for marine life. One video of a turtle with a take-away plastic naso-gastric tube is a powerful image, but it does not show that there is a plastics crisis.
          In modern life, a crisis is almost always seen and understood first by those creating it, the same people who act to correct it before it becomes a problem. What drives them to be so good? More often than not, their work is their living and they are not about to destroy it when a small effort keeps the ball rolling.
          People, as usual, you are being conned. In the usual modern manner, the con acts to help empty your pockets without your permission. Geoff.

          • St. Kilda beach get’s raked every night IIRC to remove not only plastics but used medical items such as syringes.

        • Wow. OK, so most of the trash comes from poor countries (as I said). Some of our trash also gets into the seas.

          So you then think it’s ok for us to ignore our contribution to the problem. That’s how problems escalate.

          Understood. Tell that to the next animal that sucks up your plastic bag thinking it’s a tasty jellyfish.

          • “…Tell that to the next animal that sucks up your plastic bag thinking it’s a tasty jellyfish…”

            Hey! Zig Zag Wanderer,
            Let’s wander inland from the littoral to the sahil, say, Khartoum Sudan.
            Ubiquitous plastic bags blowing in the wind, lots of barbed wire fencing and lots of stray goats.
            The barbed wire collects the plastic bags and the stray goats, with few options, have adapted to eating the plastic bags impaled on the fences. You might call them fully automated non carbonised plastic bag recyclers.
            Granted the goats are a bit tough but nothing that cannot be overcome with enough Curry powder.
            Do I need a sarc tag if it’s all true?

          • Zig Zag You must think that animals are stupid. They use many other ways to identify food other than what it looks like. Or do you actually believe those staged pictures of carcases stuffed with plastic bits are real? I want to see a picture of the purported “Floating Island of Plastic” in the Pacific ocean. Why don’t they show us this picture? It should be easy, I should be able to see it on Google Maps but it is not there. Could it be because the whole idea is a giant LIE.

          • mike macray,

            One of my mental images from a trip to the middle east a few years ago was barbed wire fences with plastic bags attached. Another image was burned out trucks or automobiles along the side of the road that were not removed after an accident. Hopefully things are improving. Trip was very educational – got to see Petra & snorkel in the red sea.

          • Our “contribution” to the problem, Zig Zag, is that much if not most of our recyclables go to Asia (not so much China anymore), and from there get dumped into the ocean. It takes energy to recycle used plastic into new plastic – frequently more than just making plastic from petroleum directly. Here in Reno area, we are not allowed to put plastic bags into our recyclable container. Violations are first met with a fine, and if that doesn’t work, WM takes our recycling bin. WM in Reno does try to recycle responsibly, but only the easy stuff: hard plastic, cardboard, and metal. They have robots doing the sorting. If you even put your bottles in a plastic sack, you still get fined. NO PLASTIC SACKS!
            However, using used plastic in a fuel cycle is usually different. Those plants are not universally available.

          • W O W WM has Recycling Patrols in Reno? Do their lift and sift everyone’s recycling cans?
            Talk about draconian tactics

        • There is not a rubbish problem in Australia, so the whole thing is an exercise in propaganda and ecofascism. There is statistically insignificant amount of single use plastic bags in the litter stream. Australia has a first world rubbish collection and disposal system… and I most certainly not approve of a government ban on private industry’s free enterprise and right to provide single use shopping bags to shoppers for their convenience.

          Single use plastic bags, wrappings and coverings are more hygienic and safe than any other packaging and freighting option.

      • How do straws end up in the ocean?
        Simple they sprout legs and walk. I’m guessing 25% of Americans would believe that!

          • …but, but on TV I saw and advert that had a .750 ml plastic water bottle roll all the way from the central plains to California …up hill and against the wind! …only to be melted by some do-gooder and turned into a park bench.

        • That statistic of how many straw end up in the ocean was developed by a kid using demonstrably bad data – some of it fabricated. It got press because it was a cute little kid that made it up.

          Now he’s learned that making stuff up gets you fame – and maybe fortune. Great life lesson, MSM.

        • Tom in Florida

          Actually, the total amount of plastic produced since mankind first making widespread use of these amazing materials is estimated to be 8.3 billion tons. Assuming an SG of ~1 (close enough for most plastics), every single morsel of plastic ever produced could be disposed of in a hole with a volume of 8 cubic kilometers i.e. 2 km x 2 km x 2 km or in imperial units slightly less than 2 cubic miles. That doesn’t sound so scary does it?

          So, let’s get real shall we? This problem has been blown out of all proportion and consists of a municipal litter and waste management problem. It’s certainly NO RISK to the planet! This is just the usual hype from green activists and the MSM.

          • Ah, but if that plastic were formed into a sheet 1-2 mil thick, it could shrink wrap the earth and we would all suffocate (unless we poked a hole in it with our pinky or some other appendage).

      • I have seen video of an actual dump truck dropping its load of garbage into an actual river. To me, it was as powerful as seeing a turtle with a plastic thing around its neck.

        • How long ago was that and where was that? At least a half century ago if it was in the U.S. Just because someone filmed a garbage truck doing something that has been banned for over a half-century doesn’t mean that plastic bags are a danger. Didn’t anyone teach you to think?

          • It was last week.
            The truck was of a model that I have never seen in North America.
            The road was a dirt path along the bank of a river.
            The truck backed up to what was an obvious dump point.
            It looked like a 3rd world country in Africa.

            So tell me what am I not thinking of.

    • Once again, we are being asked to solve a problem that we didn’t create and which, in fact, is being created elsewhere in the world. No matter what we do in North America and Europe, the oceans will still be polluted with approximately the same amount of plastic.

      90% of the plastic entering the oceans comes from ten rivers, mostly in Asia but some in Africa as well. link

      Our first world plastic bans will have zero effect on the real problem. It’s just virtue signalling and actual grinding stupidity.

      • commieBob: I feel relieved of the need to comment when you’re on the watch. Regrettably, we at this web site are mostly preaching to the choir. The left will never let facts and logic get in the way of of very visible way of virtue signaling. Makes me want to hand out leaflets at the Trader Joe’s in Old Town Alexandria.

    • I’ve never understood the argument that plastic bags and other plastic items ‘end up in the oceans’. as if the oceans have become a depository for every bit of plastic we all use. This might be the case with shoreline towns, and some where an element of river refuse enters the sea, but the vast majority of people in any country live far away from the coastline and whose plastic waste cannot possibly end up in the oceans. I’ve also heard the do-gooding environmentalists argue that it will take hundreds of years for plastic to broken down in landfill, as if this is a serious problem Billions of glass jars and cans, iron, and materials such as bricks, pottery and concrete may never break down. So what are we worried about. If it all goes into landfill then, like all other refuse, it can be buried and forgotten for ever.

      • George Lawson writes in part: “If it all goes into landfill then, like all other refuse, it can be buried and forgotten for ever.”

        And if we ever run low on a particular resource we can mine the landfills to recover the needed material. Landfills make it convenient so we don’t have to run all over searching for the material.

        Landfills are the repositories of materials which may be needed by future generations. Let’s not make it hard on them to find the stuff when they need it in the year 3019.

        • David Brin’s “Earth” SF novel referred to the same thing, about the ravines behind LA becoming filled with garbage. Then, many years later, the “Great Garbage Rush” was on to mine and extract stuff!

      • It doesn’t matter how long it takes plastic to break down in a land fill. As long as it’s in the land fill, it isn’t a problem.
        If it were to get out of the land fill. Sunlight and bacteria will take care of any plastic in short order.

        • A few years ago, I read an article about bottled water and the “problem” it posed. It started off with some statistics on how many million (billion?) bottles of water Americans consumed each year, and then asked, without any intervening information, “What can be done about this?”

          Well, what needs to be “done about this”? The article went on to say that these plastic bottles went into landfills, where they might reside for 500 years. Though I had my doubts that it would be that brief a tenure for each bottle, I had to ask myself: “What’s the problem with that?”

          The raw material of the bottle (natural gas, principally the ethylene) had been in the ground for, what, 500 million years? So humans brought it out of the ground, made it into something convenient and useful to us, and then returned it to the ground where it would have been for 500 million plus 1 years had we not intervened. What, then, is the objection? It can only be that human beings benefited from it, with no net change to the environment. I think that reflects a hatred of human beings that is incomprehensible to me, but is the only explanation I can find.

      • Part of the issue is that municipal recycling programs sell their plastic to companies in China, who are careless with it. I don’t have the link but I read that it is estimated that 1/4 of the UK contribution to ocean plastic comes from recycling.

        As an aside, even paper does not break down in a landfill due to oxygen deficiency.

      • George Lawson said:

        “but the vast majority of people in any country live far away from the coastline”

        Not in Australia.

    • It has been shown that 5% of the plastic in the oceans is attributable to the Western World (probably most from the fishing industry) The rest (95%) is from Asia. The difference is that the west largely has good waste disposal systems, and much of Asia does not.

    • As I last heard it, Practically ALL the plastic in the Pacific comes from China, not the US. So a ban in the US will have zero impact on the Pacific plastic blob.

      I still say we just burn the crap in garbage incinerators that generate electricity. If we generated electricity from our trash, we’d decrease fuel consumption.

    • Ocean plastic does not by and large come from the US. In the Pacific, it comes from places like the Phillipines. The Cali bans are useless.

    • This is exactly the reason my insane liberal city in N. Florida banned plastic bags.
      I was hoping the article was going to mention this “reason”.
      Never mind that the main source of the oceanic plastic pollution is from Chyna!
      We need to get a grip on this faux mass hysteria.

  5. Liberalism in a Nutshell:

    “Los Angeles was talking about banning plastic bags, employees from a business that manufactured plastic bags spoke in person to the city council, begging it not to ban their products. The company employed hundreds of low-skilled people, paid them well and gave them excellent benefits. Many of the employees had worked there for years because they were treated so well.

    They presented rational, factual information about their plastic bags. But the city council enacted the ban anyway, put the company out of business, and left the employees jobless”

  6. 100 percent of my plastic shopping bags end up in the landfill full of my garbage. They stopped the stores where I used to live from using them then I had to go buy kitchen garbage backs to replace them. Good thinking greenies.

    • ‘Single Use Plastic’

      Well, there’s your problem! You Progressives only use them once? At our house every plastic shopping bag goes into a holding bag next to the kitchen sink, ready for whenever you need one. They make great small trash can liners, clean up bags, paint tray covers, you name it.


      • On the rare occasion that my bag of bags overflows, I take put the excess in my cars trunk and deposit them in the recycle bin the next time I go to the grocery store.

        • I’ve done the same for years! I’ve also been saying, for years, that we don’t have a plastic problem, we have a people problem. The above article and comments serve to validate my position.

      • My wife takes the plastic bags and cuts them into strips which she ties together. She then crochets…bags, and any other number of useful items from the strips.

      • “a holding bag”

        I sell “bag-bags” on my Etsy shop just for that purpose. Make bags to match different kitchen themes (grapes, strawberries, flowers, etc., as well as dogs and cats). They’re pretty popular. I made my own to match the curtains in my kitchen.

        I can’t imagine just using a plastic bag once and then throwing it away – talk about lazy and stupid.

  7. It’s yet another example of the law of Unintended Consequences that the Greenblob do not understand and green politicians do not understand (if they have even heard of it). They never think things through (“through” can be omitted).

  8. I’ve been using the same batch of reusable bags for the weekly shop for 5 years. Hmm, 5*52=260. I estimate I’d have used close to1000 single use bags in that time. Btw, the reusable bags are still ok.

    • As are mine and in my case it is shopping 3 times a week, so they met the requirement after the first year.
      I also use Car Boot Shopping Bags about once a month for the “big shop”, I have just replaced the old pair after 20 years of use.

    • How often do you clean your reusable bags?
      PS: 1000 single use bags probably way less than the 4 re-usable bags that you’ve been using.

      • So what?
        The shopping that goes in to my re-usable bags are all wrapped or in bags of their own, so why would I need to clean the bag?

        • I hope you wash your hands every time you take anything out of those bags, because the outside of those individually wrapped items have become contaminated.

          • If you worry about germs make sure you never handle cash money, you just don’t know where it has been or who has handled it.

    • “A reusable bag must be used no less than 132 times before having a “greener” environmental impact that a plastic grocery bag.”

      In that case my reusable canvas bags are already about 4 times greener than plastic grocery bags.

  9. As long as the supermarkets keep the lightweight clear plastic bags for putting fresh fruit and veg in.
    I am not complaining about reusable shopping bags.

    • In my local supermarket, there are excitable eco-loons demanding the store take those plastic bags away and replace them with paper.

        • You’ve nailed the issue. The eco-weenies clearly don’t fully understand system engineering. We have two problems here – plastic waste, and excess CO2. both can be completely solved with one simple solution. The article points out that paper can take decades to break sown in landfills. Another name for this is ‘carbon sequestration’. So, we can simply pass a law (laws solve all problems, of course) that bags MUST be paper, and paper waste MUST be disposed of in landfills.

          Voila! both problems solved – no more plastic waste, and sequestered carbon. Nothing can go wrong!

  10. “left the employees jobless, some of them likely homeless.”

    So that’s where the bag ladies come from ?

  11. I reuse those single use plastic bag as long as they do not become teared, also use them for thrash bag. Once used one of them for storing things and was surprised a couple years later, despite being kept out of reach of sunlight that the bag was falling into dirt. So don’t tell me they are not designed to biodegrade…

  12. Happened here 6 months ago. Now you buy bags and the bags have 3 to 4 times more plastic in them and they cost 15 cents each. They are good for about two uses (if that), after which they’re often rendered unhygienic and go in the bin any way.

    To add insult to injury these 15c bags (which use 3 to 4 times as much plastic in them) are actually physically weaker (apparently due to their cool design) than the former ultra-thin and very stretchy and forgiving free bags. The top of the bags, including the carry handles, sometimes just rip away suddenly, from the lower ¾ of the bag (due to a seam). If you’ve seen the Mary Tyler Moore Show you know what occurs next.

    The supermarket checkout people are under the impression the new bags are stronger so they tend to overload them, because they think it’s really good to use less plastic bags. So you end up with your groceries on the footpath instead of in the kitchen.

    And if you ask them to please put less into each bag you get that ‘superior’ [not really] millennial glance, which says, “Oh, so you don’t care about the planet, eh?” So then you then explain to them that the bags may look stronger but they’re actually weaker – and they of course don’t really seem to believe it. Which is another reason why you can’t risk using these bags more than twice. Stress them and they let go.

    So now I get around these crap bags via taking the trolley outside, and up the street much further, before I carry the bags from there, which spreads the risk, hassle and costs around for all.

    • It sounds like you are talking about the new multi-use bags in Australia. I can’t say I have had one fail as you describe, but plenty of the single use bags did. But I had a use for them anyway, in waste baskets. I now have to buy another type of single use plastic bag for that.

      The whole thing stinks of an emotional knee-jerk reaction to a non-issue, as always.

      • You’re right Patrick, it’s the Coles 15 cent bags. I now use much more plastic than I did prior to do the same thing. I refuse to buy the $2.50 polythene shoulder bags, which make one look like a vagrant, and are just plain awkward to use, store or carry about. So it appears I’ll be using and junking a lot more plastic in my bags than I did prior. I don’t know who gets this 15 cents per bag, but I would like to invest in egging their house every week.

  13. Those of us who are old enough remember why we started using plastic grocery bags instead of paper in the first place. The environmentalists of the late ’60s and early ’70s kept yelling that we were destroying the environment by cutting down all the trees to make paper bags. In order to save the trees, it was required to not use paper. Plastic was the acceptable alternative.

    The mantra of the radical environmentalist seems to be STOP. Whatever you are doing, STOP. If you are doing today what we told you yesterday that you needed to do, STOP. It will be impossible to ever make them happy, because if they are happy they no have power over you.

    • I was just thinking of posting a similar thought. I recall when all of the cost savings and benefits of plastic over paper listed in this article were being touted *by the environmentalists* as a reason to switch away from paper. Of course that generation is long since matured past the “we’re all gonna die!!1!” phase of their lives, leaving a new generation to rail against the new norm – plastic bags…

      And I’m sure you know that whatever “solution” to the plastic bag “crisis” is implemented will become The Most Evil Thing Ever to the *next* generation of people who think that way.

  14. Like many other “enviro” causes, the fascist propagandists distort the discussion with loaded, and false, adjectives. When this issue comes up, you will often hear the phrase “single-use plastic bags”, One should immediately call them out on this phrase; I, and I think most people, use plastic bags multiple times.

  15. The target was to reduse plastic in the oceans…..right?
    So let’s ban plastic in countries who hardly contribute to plastic in the oceans.
    We can’t do anything about the countries who really contribute with the majority of the plastic pollution or it would be difficult.
    So let’s do something pointless here and now ….then at least we have a chance to get re-elected.
    …..and then next time please don’t let ugly facts get in the way of a stupid solution to a non-problem

  16. IIRC Ireland did this demonstration for us in the early 2000’s.

    With such effect that even the greens in the Scottish parliamentary investigation of implementing the same idea were not in favour

  17. With drug resistant bacteria on the rise anything we can do to encourage them, such as using dirty reusable bags, will help prevent climate change. …fewer people.

    • One sick person in hospital because of dirty bags would use an awful lot of throwaway one use medical plastics.

    • Good idea. Let’s try and find an engineered solution. The world needs the convenience, safety and superiority of plastic and while public education might work here in the West, we are not the problem so much regarding the plastic pollution in the oceans. Except maybe some jurisdictions who perhaps send their trash of all types to Asia for recycling.

  18. What a load of crap.

    The issue is not how much energy, oil, water or gas it takes to produce a paper vs plastic bag, the issue is how quickly and into what, it degrades in the environment.

  19. Much of the plastic bag rubbish here seems to come from bags used to carry sandwiches, drinks, chocolate jwrappers etc from garages and fast food outlets which are thrown out of the car windows and end up in the hedges and ditches.
    We have stillage litter pick each March to clear up rubbish, and last year I collected 3 large in liners of rubbish from a 400 yard stretch of road.
    Why don’t people take their rubbish home with them and dispose of it in their household trash?

  20. I don’t know about the oceans but the footpath I use to and from the supermarket has fewer plastic bags decorating the bushes these days. I’m in favour of the ban: I use a rucksack.

    • That’s nothing to do with plastic. Just irresponsible users littering which then blows about in the wind captured by bushes. I understand plastic rubbish blows about in the wind around the Egyptian pyramids too, blown in from landfill sites.

    • Susan,
      I agree with your using a rucksack. I keep a couple canvas bags in the car for shopping. It makes carrying in empty bottles/cans for refund and one holds 3X the groceries–without splitting or spilling in the car. My use for plastic bags ended when my hall closet was so overfilled with them I couldn’t close the door–they are so useful: for lining trash cans (too small), for lunches (no replacement for a lunch box), picking up dog-doo or cat box (I have neither)…
      I don’t agree with bans–stupid bureaucrats dream up bans to demonstrate their sense of control or social progressiveness.

  21. Another burden on the elderly.
    Pricks at supermarket checkouts lecturing the checkout-clicks about the evils of plastic bags then getting in their BMWs speeding home to their air-conditioning.
    Follow them to their car and lecture them is my new strategy.

  22. The civilised world largely gave up chopping trees down for fuel, preferring to use coal, oil and gas which are much more thermally efficient. Except in the developing world where tropical forests are frequently chopped down and burned for heating and cooking because they have little or no access to reliable fossil fuel energy.

    There are now more trees in the northern hemisphere than there was 100 years ago. The trees are also growing faster and stronger with increased atmospheric CO2, of which, from memory, man’s contribution is around 0.0012% (I may have missed off a zero there).

    However, we are now being encouraged to chop trees down on a commercial scale to feed, for one, Drax Power station in the UK with processed wood pellets from US forests which are transported across the Atlantic Ocean by the shipload, to be burned as Bio fuel in furnaces converted from burning coal, to release more CO2 and particulates into the atmosphere (CO2 good, particulates bad).

    Wood burning stoves are de rigour in the UK at the moment. Perhaps not too bad an idea in a super insulated home that uses a few bits of commercially produced wood for burning (but less coal could be used to the same or better effect) to heat the home, but they are being installed everywhere. Old, badly insulated Victorian buildings are being heated by these monstrosities ‘cos they is environmental Guv, besides the look mega cool, innit’.

    A modern condensing, gas central heating boiler is, apparently around 98% efficient but these are being replaced (?…..supplemented) by wood burning stoves which are only now being regulated because of their emissions and the burning of wet wood is to be banned because of it’s inefficiency and emissions (you would have thought our gubberment scientists might have thought about that in the first place).

    So we are now supposed to chop down more trees to make single use paper bags to replace plastic bags I personally used twice, once to transport my shopping home and a second time to use as rubbish receptacles. As is pointed out elsewhere here, I am now forced to buy plastic bin liners to hold the rubbish, but that’s OK, they somehow magically don’t end up in the oceans in whales stomachs.

    So when humankind blasts off our (by then) bald, barren, dusty planet, for the final time; in their wood powered rockets, before it’s consumed by the sun, our great, great, great, great, great………..grandchildren will turn to their parents and say “Why did we leave that planet full of all that natural underground fuel?”.

    To which the only answer can be “The greens wanted to keep it looking nice for you son”.

  23. What is this Constitutional argument? Please explain, WUWT readers are not sheep. I do think banning plastic bags is stupid, but making up Constitutional arguments is also stupid!

    The areas where plastic bags are a menace is on the coast, were they get into the ocean and are eaten by marine mammals, as they look a lot like other marine life that are food.

      • Do a google news search and look at the whales who have died from plastic waste. Facts are facts, even if you call them “fake news”

        • Wexxy,

          How ’bout you start researching before you start writing. The reference earlier in the comments was to a whale that died and 65 pounds of plastic was found in its stomach. It did not state that the whale died from eating plastic. It was also not stated what kind of whale it was. Were it a blue whale, with a stomach that can hold over 2,000 pounds, the plastic wouldn’t even cause an errant burp at the whale pub under the ocean.


  24. Whether we are using plastic or paper bags, we appear to garbage more than we did before the mid sixties.
    I have periodically lived on a tiny island in Denmark, 1.5 x 1.0 km. In the early 1960’s I would regularly walk around the island to collect useful driftwood, glass bottles, wooden boxes, etc. The beach around the island appeared natural and beautiful at all times. However, after the mid sixties plastic landed on the shores to an extend where the former beauty fainted a bit.
    Before the mid sixties, we used to buy a whole wooden box of bananas, another with tomatoes, a wooden returnable box with 50 beers in returnable glass bottles. We had very little plastic or paper waste pro persona and a compost heap for food waste. We naturally cared about the nature around us, without being ecological freaks in any way, and it never seemed to be a burden for us.
    Our home on the main land was, since 1949, heated with heating oil. The oil company, back then, installed the furnace for free, in order to sell the oil. The fuel tank was 10,000 liter or a little under 3,000 US gallon. The house, which is now class A protected, is still to this date heated with heating oil, although now owned by the Forest Commission.

    So many changes have occurred in my lifetime, and I see most of them as fascinating and beneficial. Yes, some development like plastic, involves issues, but largely benefits. Lets deal practically with the issues and focus/advertise the benefits. We need to proclaim the love to people, the benefits of great inventions like plastic and green side of our carbon dioxide contribution, the significant reduction of particulate and be happy.

    Plastic bags’ bad side is an issue and has to be dealt with, just as any other waste, and banning them is a strange way of solving a mainly logistic issue. Does anybody have some positive slogans like: “Plastic bags saves resources” “Plastic bags are practical” “Plastic bags use less energy than Paper bags” “Plastic bags use less Water than Paper bags” or something that, that sounds a lot better than my futile examples. I do not think it is important if it is true or not, as the green blob virtually never come up with scientifically correct phrases.

    • Carl Friis-Hansen

      I fully agree with your comments about the fact that this is an issue of waste management only and banning plastics is certainly NOT the answer and has no scientific basis.

      Interestingly enough, your own Danish Government has already studied the problem and found that “lightweight LDPE carrier bags provide the overall lowest environmental impact according to most environmental indicators” See the link below for the full report!

  25. The natural reaction of many environmentalists, I suspect, if they were to read this article, would be to demand the ban of plastic AND paper bags. Let’s not make this comparison between the two.

    Oh, that ghostly laugh you hear is George Carlin. He had a great monologue in which he recited all the disasters the Earth has endured – ice ages, volcanoes, asteroids, meteors, hurricanes, solar flares, tsunamis – but what’s going to destroy the planet? plastic bags. I suspect you could find it on YouTube. Great humorist. Miss the man.

  26. UK wise, the plastic bag (ban) was based on London-centric folks endlessly bleating about wind blown junk littering the country side.
    As a ‘countryside dweller’ and ardent explorer of everyone else’s countryside (it what farmers do = keep an eye on the neighbours) I was left wondering what planet these plastic panic people were from.
    I simply didn’t see it.
    As a large consumer of plastic, esp the black sheeting needed to make silage – I was in the forefront of the recycling effort – us peasants had to obey the rules of and apply for ‘exemptions’ – all to do with ‘waste’
    Especially the plastic – we weren’t allowed/supposed to store it On Farm for more than 12 months at a time.
    Certainly no burning of course.

    But then, The Cronies moved in.
    They charged farmers for removing the stuff (£10 per ton last time I saw 5 years ago) AND/BUT, it had to be spotlessly clean AND the farmer had to deliver it him/herself at appointed times to appointed places.
    What cost in time, fuel, wages etc etc?
    Who pays. The farmer of course and they can pay it via all the ‘free money’ they regularly get from Brussels.

    Then it is recycled and the only significant ‘product’ I was ever aware of was plastic fencing materials.
    The plastic rails (4″ by 2″ by 12 feet long) were easily Ten Times more expensive than the genuine wooden ones they replaced *and* were impossible to hammer nails into.
    The plastic fencing posts (stakes – maybe 5 feet long and 3 or 4 inch diameter) were in fact murderously dangerous to use with a mechanised hammer or post-knocker. They bent & twanged and were entirely capable of breaking your arm or smashing all the teeth out of your face. Again at 10 times the price of the wooden equivalent.
    Nice little earner there wasn’t it – and The Farmer was breaking the legal law if he didn’t play along & comply.

    Problem was/is, Recycled Plastic is just as big a load of crap as is Chinese recycled Steel.
    It looks like the real thing but that is all you can say about it.
    Too many different types and grades and the resultant mixture is everything and nothing.
    Look closely at the recycled stuff (I bought a few stakes to try it) and you’ll see it is chock full of tiny metal fragments – what’s that about – where the F did *they* come from?

    Some of that junk is now appearing as park benches dotted around the place but otherwise… what where???

    The Los Anglian workers surely missed a trick there – onethat would.should have worked beautifully.

    Wicker Shopping Baskets.
    Did/does Mary Poppins use one?
    My mother certainly did as did her 4 sisters and their mother = my grandmother.
    And *she* was was of a family of 13. The Victorians knew a thing or two about ‘romance’ obviously

    In fact, visit almost any UK supermarket now and you’ll see that the Hand Baskets for use in-store for small quantity purchases are all fitted with anti-theft devices. You cannot even get out of the door with one.

    The Human Animal cannot pass off untruth. It tries often enough but *always* gives itself away.
    Gotta laugh

    • Do you actually live in the UK?
      As your experience is different to mine.
      5 Years ago just about every major supermarket had every local bush & tree adorned with torn plastic bags.
      But the only “recycling” that they should do is to burn them to recycle the enrgy they contain.

      • That reminds me. On my first trip to the UK, I had the occasion to walk about the village nearest the airport and I was amazed at all the discarded umbrellas in the vacant areas thereabout, some even in trees. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it anywhere else.

  27. There’s a more important reason to let people make their own decisions.

    “James Quintero says salmonella and other illnesses spiked after San Francisco banned plastic bags

    The San Francisco bag ban is “associated with a statistically significant and particularly large increase in ER visits for E. Coli infections. We find increases between one fourth and two thirds, suggesting an increase in visits between 72 and 191 annually,”

    • I wonder how many people actually place Unwrapped & Unwashed goods with Salmonella and E Coli on them in to Shopping bags.
      Practically everything is already wrapped in the UK, is it not in the US?
      It is one of the complaints about excessive modern packaging.

      • It is typical in NJ that the checkers will automatically place meat and ice cream in separate bags within the overall grocery bag. An amazing outbreak of common sense, now that I think about it.

      • Produce is open. Iceberg lettuce is wrapped in plastic, but more succulent varieties of lettuce are open, along with most other fruits and vegetables. There are individual plastic produce bags where I live, but I don’t know about California.

        • All our local shops provide small plastic bags to place loose veg into as it is easier for the checkout to handle them.

      • If they wouldn’t complain about excessive modern packaging, they would complain how poorly packaged everything is. It’s always something isn’t it?

  28. Plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene. Polyethylene is manufactured by polymerization of ethylene, which is commercially derived by cracking petroleum. Polyethylene is not commercially prepared from natural gas.

    If the poster can make such an obvious mistake about the raw material source of plastic bags, is there any reason to believe anything else he says?

    • eth·yl·ene

      a flammable hydrocarbon gas of the alkene series, occurring in natural gas, coal gas, and crude oil and given off by ripening fruit. It is used in chemical synthesis, especially in the manufacture of polyethylene.

    • From the EIA website:

      Although crude oil is a source of raw material (feedstock) for making plastics, it is not the major source of feedstock for plastics production in the United States. Plastics are produced from natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing, and feedstocks derived from crude oil refining.

      Think before you post.

    • Bsl, you are incorrect…near me at Joffre Alberta is one of the largest polyethylene plants in the world….natural gas is the feedstock.

  29. Single use plastic bags, throw them away don’t recycle, too many people have bought into the mantra that landfills are bad.

    • What a ridiculous thing to say.
      Why would you want to throw away an Energy Intensive item like a plastic bag.
      Burn it and get some of the Energy back.

      • Only if the energy gotten from burning the bag exceeds the energy needed to collect the bag from the home to the place of burning.
        Given how little oil is in each of these bags, you are going to have to collect a lot of bags, from a lot of homes, in order to fire up your boilers.

  30. >> 132 times before having a “greener” environmental impact that a plastic grocery bag.

    **than** a plastic bag

  31. Didn’t I read on another post on WUWT that plastic biodegrades? I tried to find the link w/o success. That would seem to be another point against these virtue signaling bans.

    • Sam, there are several WUWT posts over the last few years covering the idea you described. Perhaps try “ plastic sunlight methane” in your search.

      Hope this helps!

  32. Reusable and paper bags take up far more space than plastic bags in landfills, and the airless environment of landfills means paper bags do not decompose for years, or even decades.

    I spent everyday for 4 months opening up an active landfill for a Wash. DC suburb. We buried asbestos in the open area. What I discovered was that the paper did NOT decompose, but the plastic bags were decomposing in the oxygen-less environment. Besides, the plastic bags did not bring home insect eggs like some paper bags did from the grocery store. Every grocery store has a roach problem that is addressed one way or another.

    There are many materials and processes used to make the plastic bags. They can be made to be biodegradable. So with my experience, I like the plastic and not the paper. BTW I use the re-useable bags because I like the handles in carrying the bags.

  33. It makes far more sense to require that plastic bags be made from slightly more expensive readily degradable plastic — degradable by sunlight and/or exposure to moisture. A properly engineered mixture of additives would accomplish this.

    I am old enough to remember the campaigns to require plastic bags in the place of paper bags — again for environmental reasons.

    The real problem with plastic bags is that we humans are not as careful with our trash as we should be. No trash or garbage should be allowed to escape into the environment — it should remain within the organized waste stream either to landfills or to waste-burning power plants.

    As with many things, the solution is the application of a Kindergarten Rule — pick up after yourself and put your trash in the trash bin.

  34. The freebie plastic bags from the grocery store, office supplies stores – whatever – are completely recyclable. I don’t know why anyone thinks they aren’t. They are not a one-shot, single use object.

    I have a bucket that I put them into in my laundry room, and when I need to put organic garbage in the trash bin (e.g., peach pits, apple cores, radish tails) they go into those freebie bags. I also use them for disposing of cat litter when I’m cleaning the cat boxes, and for disposing of used paper towels when I’m cleaning stuff. I use them to take shredding stuff to an office supply store for bulk shredding so that I don’t have to waste hours getting rid of it, and having all that shredded paper left over.

    Reusing the freebie bags will kill many birds with one stone. Anyone who thinks they can’t be reused is short-sighted about that.

  35. This is the standard left wing mindset.
    A small group of people mis-use something, therefore that something must be banned for everyone.

    • When a conservative doesn’t like something, they don’t buy it.
      When a liberal doesn’t like something, they tell you not to buy it.

  36. I wish the writers here would stop proclaiming that one solution or another will create less CO2. You’re just falling into the trap the Alarmists have created, that more CO2 is bad. It isn’t.

    The solution to excess plastic waste (whether bags or straws or anything else) is trash-to-energy incineration. You use it to make electricity, so you can make more plastic bags, or whatever. And you generate some CO2, which the plants love. /LEJ

  37. I wish the writers here would stop proclaiming that one solution or another will create less CO2. You’re just falling into the trap the Alarmists have created, that more CO2 is bad. It isn’t.

    The solution to excess plastic waste (whether bags or straws or anything else) is trash-to-energy incineration. You use it to make electricity, so you can make more plastic bags, or whatever. And you generate some CO2, which the plants love. /LEJ

  38. I bought a huge box of plastic straws at a wholesale club after moves by Starbucks and California cities. Want to buy a straw?

  39. When our city went plastic bagless, one of the grocery stores gave my wife an unopened box of 1000. We’re good.

  40. The only way re-useable bags trump plastic bags is if you make them yourself. My wife made her bags nearly 20years ago and is still using them (an occasional trip through the washer to keep them clean). The city of Portland banned plastic bags so I no longer shop in the city, I like my plastic bags; I usually get three or more uses out of them, and they take up much less space in the garbage. BTW it is a dirty secret that in many cities, such as Eugene Oregon, what is put out in the recycle is just dumped in with the regular trash because no one will buy it-especially paper. The only economically recyclable paper is paper only recyclables, like out of office environments.

  41. No problem with the bag ban for me. I have some good canvas bags that only cost a few bucks, and they’ve been going strong for years. There was a stir when it first came in here, but a few years later no one really thinks about it any more. Doesn’t take long to get accustomed to leaving some shopping bags in the car.

    Humanity managed just fine without single use plastic or paper bags for heck of a long time. I’m sure we can deal with this.

  42. You are wasting your time if you think rational argument will have any effect on these maniacs (maniacs in the sense of exhibiting a mania).

  43. The 131 reuses number is only for cotton bags. For the non-woven polypropylene bags that dominate the market the number is only 11 reuses to equal a single use HDPE bag. I have been using some of my PP Safeway bags a couple of times a week for years so that kinda blows single use HDPE out of the water. Here’s the UK study that produced all of the numbers: moderators

  44. My local news orgs. do a story once a month about deforestation for lumber, pulp and paper. but oddly never mention biomass going to europe for power generation… The owners of one of our last couple paper mills are getting environmentalist and gov. to run them out of business so they can take the plant overseas. I don’t think the pulp mill pirates and tree huggers are gunna go away so I guess environmental champions like Russia. China. Africa. and India. are going to supply our paper products?

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