Plastic bag bans, bonus content

February 10, 2013

Last week, PlasticsToday published a five-part comprehensive report on plastic shopping bag bans. I encourage you to read the report in its entirely on our site (slightly shameless self-promotional plug there). 

However, to give you a Cliffs Notes version, we looked at plastic shopping bags throughout the supply chain, which included their inception, potential impact on the environment with a focus on marine life, an in-depth look at the economic effect of bag bans and taxes, end-of-life management and plastic bag alternatives.

In addition, part of the series focused on my tour of Hilex Poly , one of the biggest manufacturers of plastic bag film products and the operator of the largest closed-loop plastic recycling facility in the world.

Plenty of time, seemingly countless interviews and much research when into the report and I want to take a moment to thank all the sources who talked with me and allowed me to use their opinions and research as part of the story. A big thanks to Hilex for letting me see the company's plastic bag recycling facility up close and personal. I might have to create an online photo essay to showcase all the photos I took during the tour.

It looks like the topic of plastic shopping bag bans is not going away anytime soon as it seems every day there is an announcement of another proposed ban or tax. If you have any thoughts or have something you would like to add to our conversation, please feel free to comment here and/or send me an email.

While I tried to the best of my ability to cover all the bases, there was still some content that was left out that I wanted to briefly cover here.

Bag bans making people sick?

PlasticsToday star reporter Clare Goldsberry recently wrote an article titled, "Plastic bag bans are bad for you health." In that piece, she looks into an article where evidence was presented that plastic bag bans, more specifically reusable bags that become contaminated, are in fact bad for your health.

The authors of a paper examined emergency room admissions records related to bacterial intestinal infections, especially those related to E. coli in the wake of San Francisco's 2007 countywide ban on plastic bags in large grocery stores and drug stores. That ban was extended to all retail establishments in early 2012. They found that emergency room visits spiked after the San Francisco plastic bag ban went into effect.

"We find that the San Francisco City ban is associated with a 46% increase in deaths from food borne illnesses," the authors wrote. This implies an increase of 5.5 deaths annually for the county, which the authors note is statistically significant, Clare wrote. "Bag bans in San Francisco resulted conservatively in 5.4 annual additional deaths."

I spoke with Brad Nihls, VP of operations for, a company that sells reusable products, prior to when that study was made public and he had talked about the potential contamination issue with reusable bags. He said his company hasn't come across contamination complaints related to its products.

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