As most of you know by now, a proposed state-wide ban on plastic bags was defeated in the California senate on May 31, 2013. This is the third time a state-wide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags has gone before the California senate and failed.
Proponents of the bill take the stand that single-use plastic bags are not a responsible consumer item, because plastic bag manufacturers refuse to think about the end of life of their product. Even if you go out of your way to recycle a plastic bag, it probably won’t be recycled, because the machinery to do it is impractically expensive for most facilities. Due to the tissue-like nature of the material, bags often clog up the machines at those few places who can afford them, creating prohibitively expensive repairs. This means that most of our plastic is ending up as windblown litter, on our streets, in our parks, and, far too often, in the ocean.
Opponents simply say that banning plastic bags would cost people their jobs, and that you cannot legislate choices like this; that it should be up to the individual consumer what they want to put their groceries in.
I understand that it can be a hard choice to make when thinking about people with families, who need income. But the plastics industry is HUGE! There are so many wonderful, recyclable and reusable products you can make from plastic.
All of the bags made at ChicoBag are made of either polyester, or a material called rePETe, which is made from recycled plastic bottles. One of the limiting factors of manufacturing in the U.S. today is that facilities just aren’t equipped to produce these types of materials. What if we were to adapt our current facilities which produce single-use plastic bags, and turn them into reusable bag manufacturing facilities? That would save the jobs, and solve the problem.
As for the whole “you-can’t-legislate-morality” argument, certain things are already legislated that might be seen as “moral issues”. Take the seat belt for example, or car seats. Should it be entirely up to a (possibly misinformed) parent at what age to remove the car seat? I think plastic bags are the same way. Plastic litter has consequences for humans that most people do not think about. For example, when plastic becomes oceanic litter, it often looks like food to fish. If a small fish eats a bunch of plastic, then a bigger fish eats that fish, then a person eats the bigger fish, your body has just been contaminated with plastics, the safety of which are questionable at best, scary at worst.
I personally believe that a ban on plastic bags is the right thing to do, not just for our environment, but for our children and each other. I hope that the next time a bill comes before my state senate, that they will think about the long-term effects of single-use plastics, not just the immediate effects of banning these products.