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Reason could be taking center stage in the plastic bag ban debateReason could be taking center stage in the plastic bag ban debate

We in the plastics industry see way too many headlines about plastic bag bans throughout the United States. So imagine how surprised I was when I read this article in Time magazine's Aug. 5 edition online: "Your Whole Foods Tote Could be More Harmful Than a Plastic Bag."

Clare Goldsberry

August 12, 2014

3 Min Read
Reason could be taking center stage in the plastic bag ban debate

Obviously this isn't news to PlasticsToday readers because we've blogged about this problem before. But it seems that some of the mainstream media is starting to take a reasoned look at this issue. Julian Morris, vice president of Research at Reason Foundation, is also co-author with Brian Seasholes of "How Green is that Grocery Bag Ban?" His article originally appeared at The Weekly Wonk, but to see it in Time gave me cause for hope.

Mr. Morris believes that the plastic bag has been "wrongfully convicted" of being the sole cause of litter on land and on sea, and that "banning plastic bags won't make litter disappear, dissipate litter removal costs, or save innocent animals." That is because plastic shopping bags "constituted one percent or less of visible litter in the United States. They also comprise only .4 percent or less of visible waste that's discarded."

We've all heard about the giant "island" of floating plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean, but Mr. Morris notes that this is "contradicted by the evidence, which shows that most plastic in the oceans is widely dispersed and in the form of tiny pieces." And he adds that plastic bags are not threatening fish or birds for that matter, he states, pointing out that these claims seem to be connected to a "misreading of a study that investigated the impact of discarded fishing gear."

And Morris gives us a quote we in the plastics industry can use, right out of the mouth of senior biologist David Santillo with Greenpeace, who explained in The Times of London: "It's very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags. The evidence shows just the opposite. . . . With larger mammals it's fishing gear that's the big problem. On a global basis plastic bags aren't an issue."

While we're still hearing a lot about the dangers of plastic and how it's destroying the earth and wildlife, nobody bothers to look at what so-called "green energy" is doing to wildlife. In June, a wildlife conservation group sued the Obama administration over a federal rule that gives wind-energy a pass to kill or injure eagles for 30 years. Big energy companies are given permits to kill federally protected eagles and other birds, but of course that's in the name of saving the planet. While wind energy might help reduce some greenhouse gases, the environmental costs are still adding up. 

And what about all those fried birds they're finding out in the California desert at the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station that covers over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vega? The Desert Tortoise lost that battle. With its 40-story tall "tower power" technology and almost 350,000 mirrors, "each the size of a garage door," writes Cassandra Sweet for The Wall Street Journal, the heat coming from the Ivanpah facility is scorching birds. According to Sweet's article, the company "reported finding dozens of dead birds at the Ivanpah plant" when workers were testing the facility before it started operating in December. All the birds had "singed or burned feathers, according to federal biologists and documents filed with the state Energy Commission."

Yes, the plastic industry is tired of being the fall guys for everything environmentally unfriendly in this world. But plastics bashing seems to be acceptable while going after the "green energy" industry, with its thousands of acres of solar mirrors covering the beautiful desert floor and towering wind turbines snatching eagles from the air, is considered politically incorrect.

We should thank Mr. Morris for his reasoned, scientific support for plastic bags. We in the industry need all the friends we can get!!

Read Mr. Morris's entire commentary at www.time.com/3083043/paper-plastic-bag-myth/

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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