Plastic Bag Ban not the Solution in RI

13 Mar 2014

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There are many in Rhode Island advocating for a statewide ban on plastic bags. Everyone wants a healthy environment for future generations, but a bag ban is not a silver bullet solution, especially when aluminum cans, paper products and glass bottles riddle the roadsides. As well intentioned as the cause may be, to single out one industry in the name of environmental stewardship is simply misguided.

The EPA reports that plastic retails bags make up less than 0.5% of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. Considering that the unemployment rate in the U.S. sits just above 7% and Rhode Island's at 9%, should we really be making it tougher for those who depend on plastic manufacturing and recycling jobs to earn a living? Bag bans - if enacted - would essentially shut down this vibrant American industry.

Plastic bags are also the most environmentally friendly choice at the checkout, as the vast majority of plastic retail bags are made in the United States using high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a byproduct of natural gas, not oil, and are 100% recyclable. This is in stark contrast to their reusable bag counterparts - most of which are manufactured in China with oil and cannot be recycled, cluttering up landfills.

In fact, you may even be depositing your bags and other plastic wraps in the bins outside your local grocery stores, which are then picked up and recycled into new plastic bags.

Dr. David Tyler of the University of Oregon summed up the choice of plastic grocery bags like this: "If the most important environmental impact you wanted to alleviate was global warming, then you would go with plastic."

Those who also claim that a bag ban will reduce the costs for municipalities in their clean up and disposal are selling you a false bill of goods. The National Center for Policy Analysis studied this claim in those localities, like San Francisco, which have bag bans already in effect. The report concludes that there is "no evidence of a reduction in costs attributable to reduced use of plastic bags."

There are very real economic consequences to plastic bag bans with no scientific evidence to back them up.

For more information on recycling and  recyclable plastic bags, contact Atlantic Poly.