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Thread: Planet Money: Plastic Bag Bans are Garbage

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    tWebber guacamole's Avatar
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    Planet Money: Plastic Bag Bans are Garbage

    https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2...g-bans-garbage
    Relevant facts culled from the article (but read the article.):

    Taylor [the researcher] found these bag bans did what they were supposed to: People in the cities with the bans used fewer plastic bags, which led to about 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says. This was particularly the case for small, 4-gallon bags, which saw a 120 percent increase in sales after bans went into effect.
    "
    [I snipped the chart. If you want to see the chart, read the article.)

    Trash bags are thick and use more plastic than typical shopping bags. "So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year.
    So fact 1: The banning of plastic bags doesn't take all of that plastic out of the environment. People still buy plastic bags to use for "plastic bag things," like picking up poo or the popular bathroom waste bin.

    Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce nonbiodegradable litter.
    Fact 2: paper bags = destruction of wildlife habitat and increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The "bunch of studies" are posted in the article, which you should read.


    A 2011 study by the U.K. government found a person would have to reuse a cotton tote bag 131 times before it was better for climate change than using a plastic grocery bag once. The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.
    Fact 3: These numbers are crazy. That's not so much an objective fact as an observation.

    Here's a link to today's podcast if you want to listen to it:

    https://www.npr.org/2019/05/23/72603...-be-a-bad-move
    "Down in the lowlands, where the water is deep,
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    God, family, chicken! Bill the Cat's Avatar
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    https://nypost.com/2019/05/08/scient...lable-plastic/

    This could bring SOME measure of relief:

    “Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” Peter Christensen, lead author of the work published in Nature Chemistry, said in a statement. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

    There are many hurdles that make recycling plastics difficult. The primary concern for the research team was finding a way to separate the polymers of the plastic from the various additives which are so often used to give the finished product specific qualities.
    These chemicals often stay attached to the plastic even after it’s been processed, severely limiting the amount of the material that can be repurposed.
    The scientists developed a new type of plastic material called poly (diketoenamine), or PDK for short. PDK differs from traditional plastics in the way additives bond to it and, unlike plastics that pile up at recycling plants today, the bonds the PDK plastic forms with other chemicals are reversible via an acid bath.
    Put simply, recycling PDK plastic allows the base material to be fully separated from any additional chemicals that were added later, giving the entirety of the plastic a new lease on life.


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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    Purely on a consumer level, I think Aldi has demonstrated it doesn't have to be all that disruptive for shoppers.

    The other day, I was driving through town and decided spontaneously to grab a few groceries there. I didn't have my reusable bags we use for Aldi, so I just grabbed one of the empty cardboard boxes they leave around the store.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    Purely on a consumer level, I think Aldi has demonstrated it doesn't have to be all that disruptive for shoppers.

    The other day, I was driving through town and decided spontaneously to grab a few groceries there. I didn't have my reusable bags we use for Aldi, so I just grabbed one of the empty cardboard boxes they leave around the store.
    Nope. Aldi just relies on people bringing their own bags. Most people just bring plastic bags from their regular grocery store when they go to Aldi. That's what I do. I just keep some in the back of my car.


    --
    I am copying this from a post I did in another thread:

    ---
    The Danes did a study of all of the various types of bags used for groceries, including cotton (canvas) bags to see which had the least impact on the environment. Guess which one does?

    The plastic one-use bags.

    ======
    Kroger's Feel-Good Ban On Plastic Bags Is Worse Than Pointless

    Environmentalism: Kroger, America's largest grocery store chain, announced Wednesday that it would ban plastic bags at the checkout lanes in all its stores by 2025. This comes after a multitude of studies have found that replacements for those bags are often far worse for the environment, not to mention more expensive for consumers.

    People will need something to carry their groceries out of the store. And as it turns out, today's plastic bags are, overall, more environmentally friendly than the alternatives.

    Don't take our word for it. Earlier this year, Denmark's Environmental Protection Agency published an extensive study that looked at the life cycle environmental impact of various grocery bags. That means measuring pollution, water use, toxic byproducts, carbon emissions, etc., from the bags' production, to its transportation to its disposal.

    What did the Danish study find? Those terrible, awful, lightweight disposable bags that Kroger plans to ban had the lowest environmental impact than any of nearly a dozen reusable alternatives it studied. In some cases, the disparity is huge.

    The study found, for example, that a shopper would have to reuse an organic cotton bag 2,000 times before it equaled the environmental impact of one disposable plastic bag. If that shopper went to the store twice a week, it would take them 19 years before that bag was better for the environment than the plastic bag they replaced it with.

    You'd have to reuse a paper bag 43 times — good luck with that — and recycled plastic bags as much as 84 times, the study found.

    Why the disparity? Turns out that the plastic bags are incredibly efficient. They're extremely lightweight, use far less material, and are far less bulky than the alternatives. In the case of paper and water, manufacturing requires far more water than plastic bags.
    Plastic Bags and Climate Change

    The Danish study also found that plastic bags have a smaller carbon footprint than almost any alternative — and way smaller than cotton bags.

    So, anyone who says that global warming is the single biggest threat to the planet should insist that Kroger keep stocking those plastic bags.

    Various other studies, many government financed, have come to similar conclusions. The U.K., for example, did a similar analysis and found plastic bags come out on top, unless shoppers reuse the alternatives many, many times.

    Then, of course, there's the fact that plastic bags are incredibly cheap, whereas consumers have to buy the reusable ones. Banning plastic bags, then, is effectively a tax on middle-income families.

    But what about all the plastic in the ocean? That is a legitimate problem.

    However, if Kroger wants to cut down on plastic in the ocean, banning plastic bags in the U.S. will make zero difference. As we noted in this space earlier, the bulk of plastic in the ocean comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The U.S. accounts for less than 1% of the plastic in the ocean. (Related: Starbucks' decision to ban straws is bad news for many disabled Americans.)

    Instead of educating the public about the reality of plastic bags, straws and the like, companies like Kroger, Starbucks are playing on consumers' ignorance to score cheap PR wins.

    https://www.investors.com/politics/e...n-environment/

    The Danish Report: https://www2.mst.dk/Udgiv/publicatio...93614-73-4.pdf

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