The push to restrict or ban the use of plastic bags has exploded in recent years across states, cities and municipalities. New York City is the latest to go after plastic bags, while similar efforts in Texas have been less successful. In fact, last year the Texas Supreme Court overturned Austin's ban on plastic bags as a violation of state law.
Lost in all of the legal wrangling over these laws is the question of whether banning plastic bags actually has a positive impact on the environment, public health and natural resources. One group has found the answer to be no. "This is going against our capitalist principles as a country by mandating bans, and it also doesn't really actually end up helping the environment--in fact, it could hurt the environment," says Nick Lindquist, National Policy Director for the American Conservation Coalition (ACC).
Specifically, the ACC cites research on the efficiency of reusable grocery bags. "According to a study by the U.K.'s environmental agency, it would take 131 uses of a reusable bag to have any environmental benefit at all," says Lindquist. "Also, those bags take a lot more energy and water to produce--as do paper bags--whereas the plastic bags take significantly less power and water pollution to create."
Another finding from the ACC is that reusable bags are far less sanitary. "Reusable bags often just don't get cleaned out after they've had leaky meats or unwashed produce in them, and then they become a health hazard," says Lindquist.
Lindquist tells KTRH that people caring about the environment is a positive thing, but many are simply uninformed about how to do it. "It's important to educate people on the actual facts on this issue, because a lot of people don't know the facts in order to make an informed decision on this," he says.