In response to the “Why Ban Single-use Carryout Plastic Bags” letter from Mark Jones: (Los Alamos Daily Post, April 8, 2015, click here).
Thank you Mark for providing a prime example why I quit supporting the Sierra Club in the late 1980s.
You start out by stating the U.S. consumed over 100 billion plastic bags in 2009. That sounds like a good number considering that 5 trillion of these bags were consumed world-wide, at a rate of 2-2.5 percent, U.S. consumption of the overall amount compared to the U.S. representing 4.5 percent of the population. This is probably one of the few areas where U.S. consumption of an item lags behind that of the rest of the world, especially in terms of energy and fuel consumption.
Significant resources used? Consider that total plastic production, of which plastic bags account for a small fraction of a percent, uses a total of about 4 percent of all fossil fuels. You finish your first paragraph lamenting the fuel used to bring the bags to the stores as if our local Smith’s has each case of bags delivered all by itself on a single tractor trailer, which of course is not the case.
Your next paragraph ignores the fact that many people re-use these bags, 9 out of 10 times, but you’re trying to make it sound like every single bag goes immediately into the trash. You follow that up by stating that even though some people reuse the bags, that “statistics show that most bags are not reused.” What do the statistics say for Los Alamos County?
I personally do not know a single person in the County who does not reuse or recycle these bags. I’m sure our local statistics differ greatly from the overall statistics you rely on.
Biodegradable products? Really? You’re trading a non-problem for a real problem. Cotton and paper use much more natural resources, and are not free of using fossil fuels in their production. I guess you suppose they magically materialize at the point of distribution, unlike their evil plastic cousins. Cotton requires the use of tractors, trucks, cotton gins. The same is true for corn starch based plastics in regard to water and fuel consumed.
Recycling? Again, you quote another nationwide statistic and totally disregard the program in use by the largest supplier of plastic bags in the county.
The term, “Negative externality” gets used in the middle of the letter to add some big word credibility to your argument. Sounds like your next move is to ban toilet paper, but no, you were trying to group the manufacturers of plastics with industries that did harm to people with the intended use of their products.
Last time I checked, plastic manufacturers don’t recommend their products get immediately thrown into the ocean. In fact the plastics industry is on the leading edge in recycling and reuse innovation. What other industry in this country is so responsible with the impact their product has? There isn’t one. Government regulation is not needed here, because the plastics industry is already self-regulating and governing themselves.
There is one truth you claim in your letter and that is, “The action we are requesting will cause some cost and inconvenience.” Yes, a plastic bag ban will a big cost and inconvenience for many people, but what will you actually solve? You pushed a perceived problem off to another area, just kicked the can down the road so to speak.
Your relatively inexpensive cost might be another loaf of bread or gallon of milk to a family struggling to make ends meet, or a senior citizen on a fixed income. You might not understand this, but, there aren’t a whole lot of places on my motorcycle to stash re-usable bags for those times I’m asked to bring a few things from the store on the way home.
Your next to last paragraph is confusing as it acknowledges that trash from Los Alamos does not end up in the ocean. But you claim that there is still an impact of trash in our oceans. How is banning something in Los Alamos, that is never going to find its way to the ocean, going help keep the ocean clean?
No Mark, plastic bags in Los Alamos are not destroying the planet. There are places where this might be a problem, but it’s not here. In all the places I’ve lived, Los Alamos has the smallest littering problem. The real problem is littering, Mark. The largest release of plastic bags into the wild occurs when well-meaning people put loose plastic bags in their recycle bin and pickup happens on a windy day. I’d argue that the next largest release of plastic bags in this county happens when our local crows get into trash dumpsters left open searching for tidbits of food.
And Mark, before you write another letter about how bad of a problem these bags are in Los Alamos, please feel free to take part in a roadside trash pick-up. Get back to us on how much these bags account for the overall trash picked up. Also feel free to leave the Sierra Club talking points out and maybe do a little research on your own. Meanwhile, I’m double-bagging everything I buy until you post some cold hard facts to back up your viewpoint.