Sunday, April 14, 2019

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Even NPR questions, Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?
University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor started studying bag regulations because it seemed as though every time she moved for a new job — from Washington, D.C., to California to Australia — bag restrictions were implemented shortly after. "Yeah, these policies might be following me," she jokes. Taylor recently published a study of bag regulations in California. It's a classic tale of unintended consequences.

Before California banned plastic shopping bags statewide in late 2016, a wave of 139 California cities and counties implemented the policy themselves. Taylor and colleagues compared bag use in cities with bans with those without them. For six months, they spent weekends in grocery stores tallying the types of bags people carried out (she admits these weren't her wildest weekends). She also analyzed these stores' sales data.
 Ah yes, the life of a grad student. "Bright college days, oh carefree days that fly. To thee we sing, with our glasses raised on high (hic!)"
Taylor found these bag bans did what they were supposed to: People in the cities with the bans used fewer plastic bags, which led to about 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says. This was particularly the case for small, 4-gallon bags, which saw a 120 percent increase in sales after bans went into effect.

Trash bags are thick and use more plastic than typical shopping bags. "So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year.

Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce nonbiodegradable litter.

What about reusable cloth bags? We know die-hard public radio fans love them! They've got to be great, right? Nope. They can be even worse.

A 2011 study by the U.K. government found a person would have to reuse a cotton tote bag 131 times before it was better for climate change than using a plastic grocery bag once. The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.

That said, the Danish government's estimate doesn't take into account the effects of bags littering land and sea, where plastic is clearly the worst offender.

The most environment-friendly way to carry groceries is to use the same bag over and over again. According to the Danish study, the best reusable ones are made from polyester or plastics like polypropylene. Those still have to be used dozens and dozens of times to be greener than plastic grocery bags, which have the smallest carbon footprint for a single use.

As for bag policies, Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking.

Taylor believes the recent legislation passed in New York is a bad version of the policy. It bans only plastic bags and gives free rein to using paper ones (counties have the option to impose a 5-cent fee on them). Taylor is concerned this will drive up paper use. The best policy, Taylor says, imposes a fee on both paper and plastic bags and encourages reuse.
What could be more appropriate on Palm Sunday?
Plastic bag bans are virtue signalling by jurisdictions. Bag bans should be banned in the name of freedom, as should Straw Bans. Courtesy of Teach at Pirate's Cove, I see that my beloved Oregon has fallen for the Straw Ban: Having Solved All Of Oregon’s Problems, Senate Passes Bill Limiting Straws
Plastic pollution is not a joke. Even with the notion that the majority these days comes from China and India, each of us can do our part. It doesn’t have to be about ‘climate change’, or even extreme enviroweenieism. Seriously, do you like driving around, going for a walk, riding a bike, going to beach or the mountains or the park and seeing garbage, much of which is plastic? But, should Government be dictating choice?
Elle Johnson would give up her bikini before her straw

Oregon Senate passes bill limiting plastic straws
Oregon’s Senate passed a law Thursday to limit the use of plastic straws.
SB 90, approved by a 23-6 vote, would prohibit single-use plastic straws at restaurants unless a customer asks for one. Drive-thrus would still be able to hand out plastic straws.
In a press release, Oregon Democrats highlighted the environmental risks of plastic straws.
“We use a straw for less than an hour, but it continues to exist in nature for longer than our lifetime,” said state Sen. Michael Dembrow (D), who introduced the bill on the Senate floor.

“We can use a straw, throw it away and forget about it as an inconsequential part of our lives. But that straw can easily end up in the ocean or somewhere else in nature. There, a single straw can have significant and sometimes deadly impacts on animals. The viral video of a turtle having a straw painfully removed from its nostril provides clear evidence that our seemingly inconsequential acts have significant consequences for other creatures.”
Brooke gave up fishing, but not palms and straws

I’m not going to disagree with Dembrow’s assessment. This doesn’t have to be a political issue in terms of reducing plastic pollution. But, again, should government be passing laws like this? For one thing, there really is no enforcement mechanism. Does anyone think a cop will go in to get a burger and give a ticket when they are given a straw? Heck, most places do not hand you a straw, they have a big container with them. Something like this would be better as a resolution which asks places with straws to limit their use and replace them mostly with recyclables, paper straws, and recycle containers for plastic straws, many of which are stirrers for coffee.
Because, really, Oregon has a few more important issues, such as the quick rising homeless problem, used syringes all over the streets in cities like Portland, and rising crime.
And from Watt's Up With That: Climate Friendly Plastic Recycling is a Total Con
60 Minutes: Australia’s recycling industry now ‘mostly a con’ after China closes doors to plastic waste

By Sammi Taylor • 60 Minutes Digital Producer Apr 14, 2019

Most Australians think they’re doing the right thing when they take their recycling bins to the curb every fortnight.

But our belief that we’re doing our part for the environment is somewhat misguided: Australia’s plastic recycling industry is largely a con.

 “When you throw this stuff in your recycle bin at home you might like to think again,” Bartlett says.

Australia alone has dumped more than 71,000 tonnes of plastic in Malaysia in the past 12 months.

But there, the mountains of plastic waste can often end up in illegal processing facilities and junkyards.

It’s a big problem – and many players within the recycling industry are calling it for what it is: a load of rubbish.

Read more:
It's true in the United States too.

The Wombat has Rule 5 Sunday: Aisha Tyler awaiting your digital pleasure.

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