Monday, February 24, 2020

The Confused Plastic Bag Haters

John Tierney has an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

It savages the anti-plastic bag crowd.

More than 100 countries now restrict single-use plastic bags, and Pope Francis has called for global regulation of plastic. The European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic straws, plates and cutlery across the Continent next year. In the U.S., hundreds of municipalities and eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have outlawed or restricted single-use plastic bags. Greens in California are pushing a referendum to require all plastic packaging and single-use foodware in the state to be recyclable, and the European Union has unveiled a similar plan, notes Tierney.

But is there any sound logic behind these activist moves?

Tierney says "no" and here us why:
Popular misconceptions have sustained the plastic panic. Environmentalists frequently claim that 80% of plastic in the oceans comes from land-based sources, but a team of scientists from four continents reported in 2018 that more than half the plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” came from fishing boats—mostly discarded nets and other gear. Another study, published last year by Canadian and South African researchers, found that more than 80% of the plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore of Inaccessible Island, an uninhabited extinct volcano in the South Atlantic, originated in China. They must have been tossed off boats from Asia, the greatest source of what researchers call “mismanaged waste.”
Of the plastic carried into oceans by rivers, a 2017 study in Nature Communications estimated, 86% comes from Asia and virtually all the rest from Africa and South America. Some plastic in America is littered on beaches and streets, and winds up in sewer drains. But researchers have found that laws restricting plastic bags and food containers don’t reduce litter. The resources wasted on these anti-plastic campaigns would be better spent on more programs to discourage all kinds of littering.
Another myth—that recycling plastic prevents it from polluting the oceans—stems from the enduring delusion that plastic waste can be profitably turned into other products. But sorting plastic is so labor-intensive, and the resulting materials of so little value, that most municipalities pay extra to get rid of their plastic waste, mostly by shipping it to Asian countries with low labor costs. The chief destination for many years was China, which two years ago banned most imports. It now goes to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Some of the plastic from your recycling bin probably ends up in the ocean because it goes to a country with a high rate of “mismanaged waste.”
Yet single-use plastic bags aren’t the worst environmental choice at the supermarket—they’re the best. High-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering and environmental efficiency. They’re cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint.
Once discarded, they take up little room in landfills. That they aren’t biodegradable is a plus, because they don’t release greenhouse gases like decomposing paper and cotton bags. The plastic bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere and ocean in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining...
Plastic bans are a modern version of medieval sumptuary laws, which forbade merchants and other commoners to wear clothes or use products that offended the sensibilities of aristocrats and clergymen. Green activists have the power to impose their preferences now that environmentalism is essentially the state religion in progressive strongholds. They can lord it over the modern merchant class and corporations desperately trying to curry social favor. The plastic panic gives politicians and greens the leverage to shake down companies afraid that they’ll be regulated out of business.
Most important, the plastic panic gives today’s elites a renewed sense of moral superiority. No matter how much fuel politicians and environmentalists burn on their flights to international climate conferences, they can still feel virtuous as they issue their edicts to grocery shoppers.
Tierney is correct in calling the anti-plastic bag movement a state religion. The anti-plastic bag posing is madness, driven by power freaks who will latch on to any idea they believe they can promote that can control the masses.

When you come upon an anti-plastic bag person, you are either talking to a duped person who is part of crowd madness or a power freak. Their ideas belong in the trash.



  1. Manufacturing paper bags also releases a lot more pollution and carbon into the air and water than manufacturing plastic bags does.

  2. Also, single-use plastic utensils are more safely hygienic compared with potentially defectively washed metal utensils (in addition to not requiring the energy, water, and chemicals involved in the washing process). In a world where folks are becoming traumatized by the alleged corona-virus pandemic, you'd think that this hygienic factor would become a priority.

  3. Most of the plastic waste should be incinerated. I'm no environmental wacko, but plastic needs to be disposed of properly. We are literally eating this stuff in our food and other products everyday. Since the Asian countries are filthy shitholes filled with the kind of people libertardians think we should bring over in masses for ever and ever, it's no wonder the ocean is filled with plastic waste which is damaging to wildlife.

    Plastics do make modern medicine possible and we all use petroleum products, but we don't need to be stupid about its disposal.

    1. Never been to Malaysia, Singapore or Japan ah? Hell even China major cities were far beyond cleaner theb anything in the usa.

  4. 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.

    "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned,"