Dear Green Police: Make up your mind, would ya’??

When I was in high school and college, I worked at the local supermarket. Thus I am very familiar with the age-old question: “Paper, or plastic”?

Back in the 80’s, the switch was on to get away from the paper bags which were immensely popular, and replace them with a new, photo-degradable plastic bag. The bag was promised to be more environmentally friendly, would breakdown in sunlight, and we wouldn’t have to “cut down all the forests” for bags.

Even back then, such statements didn’t ring true to me. I was raised in a fairly rural part of New England, yet we had a paper company plant right in town. I was curious as to why, if the trees were a source of profit for the manufacturers (like our local paper plant), why would they be so stupid as to not replace their product source ? The answer, of course, is that they wouldn’t, ’cause they’re not that stupid, and there are more trees now than there were 100 years go.

Anyway, back to bags. All the supermarkets started to use the new photo-degradable bags back then, and we were encouraged to steer people away from paper. By doing this we were repeatedly assured that we would be helping the environment.

And now we have this:

Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to approve a ban on plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines, handing a hard-fought victory to environmentalists and promising to change the way Angelenos do their grocery shopping.

The City Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out plastic bags over the next 16 months at an estimated 7,500 stores, meaning shoppers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

So let me get this straight: the same eco-weenies (or maybe by now it’s their kids) who were telling me 30 years ago that we should use the photo-degradable bags, and should steer folks away from paper bags, have done an about-face and are now saying that plastic, photo-degradable are so bad that they need to be completely banned, but they’ll “allow” you to buy the old paper ones for a dime, or you can bring a cloth bag?

Huh? Does this make sense? Does actual science back any of this up?

You can guess the answer by now:

plastic-bag-sc“…In 2011, the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency released a study that evaluated nine categories of environmental impacts caused by different types of supermarket bags.

….the study found that the average supermarket shopper would have to reuse the same cotton tote from 94 up to 1,899 times before it had less environmental impact than the disposable plastic bags needed to carry the same amount of groceries. This wide-varying amount of reuse that is required until the breakeven point is reached depends upon the type of environmental impact, but the median is 314 times, and it is more 170 times for all but one of the 9 impact categories.

Why is this? Because the environmental impacts of supermarket bags are dominated by the energy and raw materials needed to manufacture them. Plastic bags are inexpensive because relatively small amounts of energy and raw materials are needed to make them. These same attributes that make plastic bags affordable and light also make them easier on the environment than alternatives like paper bags and reusable cotton totes…” 

The article then goes on to explain why organic items in landfills don’t decompose any better than plastic bags (they become mummified) and also blows up the myth that plastic bags are bad because they’re rarely recycled:

Another common talking point about supermarket plastic bags is that they are rarely recycled, but this argument ignores the fact that a large portion of supermarket plastic bags (40% in the U.K.) are reused as garbage pail liners. Interestingly, the U.K. study found that it is better for the environment to reuse these bags as garbage pail liners rather than recycle them. This is due to the environmental “benefits of avoiding the production of the bin liners they replace.”

Just another in a verrrrry long series of times that the eco-libs got it wrong, again. It won’t make them slow down, of course: the eco-freaks are too convinced of their own importance.

And since I KNOW how important this is to them, this has become one of my biggest concerns out of self-defense. It’s also the reason why, far from making us laugh, this commercial from 2010 made my wife and I extremely uncomfortable.

‘Cause anymore, this no longer looks that unbelievable to me.

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9 responses to “Dear Green Police: Make up your mind, would ya’??

  1. I agree this is a tough subject. Plastic is still best alternative all things considered.

    • Thanks, Jim! The plastic bags are cheap and convenient for everyone, and can be used a 2nd time for your garbage. We haven’t bought bags for our small garbage pails in years and years.

      Hopefully this won’t spread, but since this is being done by town and city councils, it will need to run its course before it ends.

      • I also reuse mine for my small trash pails. The problem with cloth bags is all the bacteria that’s left in them when you take out your groceries, meat will contaminate the cloth big time.

        Mind if I ask where you’re from JTR? I’m also from rural NE, central Maine to be almost exact. I helped a friend of mine write his book about the Jay Paper Strike in Maine.

        • Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts. My hometown had between 5-6,000 people, MAX.

          It was beautiful, ….but definitely rural.

        • And if you clean the cloth bags (which you must) the very act of cleaning them has to be factored in to the energy used for them (electricity, hot water, etc.,..).
          It will also shorten the lifespan of the bag.

          These folks would be waaaay funnier if they weren’t in charge of anything.

        • godsbooklover

          The real problem with reusable bags is that they come in the house with the groceries, and refuse to walk back out to the car on their own.

  2. Pingback: Just in case you’d forgotten: the Incandescent vs. CFL vs. LED controversy, and the Dim Bulbs behind the whole mess… | Two Heads are Better Than One

  3. Pingback: Of Plastic Bags and Bondage (or, “How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bag”) | Two Heads are Better Than One

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