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Reason Foundation shows how plastic bag ban hurts California’s economy

California's plastic bag ban has everyone on both sides of the fence defending their positions. Reason Foundation, a non-partisan public policy research organization and publisher of Reason magazine, just completed a study on California's new ban on plastic bags.The study revealed some things that we in the plastics industry already know, but support of the Reason Foundation is welcomed.

Clare Goldsberry

October 21, 2014

2 Min Read
Reason Foundation shows how plastic bag ban hurts California’s economy

According to Reason Foundation, opponents' claims that a ban on plastic bags will benefit the environment just "don't stand up to scrutiny." Instead, said the commentary by Lance Christensen, director of the pension reform project at Reason Foundation: "the ban is likely to do more harm than good both to the environment and to people's pocketbooks."

Christensen noted that "lightweight plastic bags constitute less than 1 percent of all visible litter, represent only 0.4 percent of all municipal solid waste and are not a major cause of blocked storm drains." The conclusion drawn by Reason Foundation's study is that the ban will have practically no impact on the amount of litter generated. "In fact, when plastic bags were banned in San Francisco, the country's own studies showed that litter actually increased," wrote Christensen.

For its study, Reason Foundation calculated that an average consumer using only lightweight plastic bags would responsible for consuming less energy and water and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions that someone using alternative bags. "The main proposed alternative is five times heavier than the current bag and is responsible for the consumption of far more resources, energy and water," said Christensen. That's something that PlasticsToday has pointed out several times during this conversation.

Washing the reusable bags, as Californians are told to do to get rid of the germs that can cause illness, "would consume as much as 40 times more water than lightweight plastic bags." With California's drought situation, one would think that is not exactly sage advice.

Christensen noted that paper bags "consume more resources, including five times more water over their lifecycle than lightweight plastic bags." PlasticsToday has also noted this fact in its editorials on this topic.

Economically, Christensen noted that the bag ban is "likely to disproportionately burden the working poor and those households on a tight budget. A dollar spent on 10 paper bags is a dollar not available for other purchases." He also pointed out that the bag ban was sponsored by grocery chains that may "reap hundreds of millions of dollars charging the consumer more for a paper bag than it cost them to procure them wholesale."

It's obvious that this issue will not go away soon, and as opponents gather signatures to put the issue on the ballot in a vote to repeal the plastic bag ban we can keep educating the public about the fantastic benefits of plastic!

Note: Christensen wrote his commentary originally for the Orange Country (CA) Register.

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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