Here are some Sierra Club Talking Points (TP) being Debunked (D):
TP: Plastic bags last forever in the landfills.
D: Everything lasts forever in the landfills we use. They are designed to keep what’s put there as stable as possible to reduce the chance of nasty stuff oozing into the environment.
TP: Re-Usable bags are friendlier to the environment.
D: If you consider the entire lifecycle of these bags, the re-usable bags are worse for the environment. Most of them are made in China with dirtier energy and no restrictions on what waste products are allowed back into the environment. Most of the plastic shopping bags currently offered at checkout are made in the U.S.A. with much cleaner energy and high standards for waste product disposal. Banning plastic shopping bags eliminates more U.S.A. jobs and contributes towards polluting the environment.
TP: Paper bags are better because they’re recyclable and bio-degradable.
D: Paper bags are worse for the environment to make, and take up more space in a landfill when thrown away. People who are currently throwing away or littering plastic bags are going to throw away or litter paper sacks. Plastic bags have more recycling cycles than paper and the majority of paper destined for recycling ends up in China; this is the our largest export to China. As far as being bio-degradable, see the first TP.
TP: 100,000 marine animals are killed every year by ingesting plastics.
D: First off, the 100,000 number has never been verified as part of any scientific study; it’s totally made up to pull at the heartstrings. Second, of all the plastic that is found in the wild outside a landfill, plastic shopping bags make up a fraction of 1%. Banning plastic bags in Los Alamos is not going to save a single marine animal.
TP: Plastic shopping bags are a big eye-sore when littered.
D: Again, plastic shopping bags are less than one percent of all plastic found outside a landfill. Take part in a trash pick-up program (or do your own experiment) to confirm this.
TP: I shouldn’t have to subsidize plastic shopping bags when I use my re-usable bags.
D: Actually, you “subsidize” many things whenever you make a purchase with plastic shopping bags being very minor compared to those other things. When you pay for your items with cash or check, you’re subsidizing hefty fees for those people who use credit cards. If you do not like what a merchant chooses to “subsidize”, you have the freedom of choice to choose another.
TP: The county waste station sends the bags to the landfill when they cannot find a buyer.
D: This is easily solved by working with Smith’s, which has a great recycling effort for plastic shopping bags already in place. Giving the plastic bags to Smith’s would be cheaper than trucking them to the landfill.
A ban is not the way to go. Education is powerful. Encouragement works wonders. A program that encourages people to recycle and re-use of the plastic shopping bags would be much more effective than a ban; re-using a bag one time reduces its impact on a landfill by 50 percent.
Encourage people to purchase re-usable bags made in the U.S.A. that do have a less environmental impact than those made in China. Instead of demanding a total switch-over to re-usable bags, encourage people to use one or two to use in conjunction with the plastic shopping bags.
Responsible people will make the right choices when presented with real facts. The irresponsible people will still be irresponsible after a ban.
Please let the Los Alamos County Council know how you feel about losing choice and hurting small business for no good reason: click here.