04.18.2012 0

It’s a wrap; both paper and plastic bags are getting tossed

By Rebekah Rast — Since Earth Day is right around the corner, here is an important question: paper or plastic? When checking out at a grocery store, which bag do you prefer?

There are arguments for and against both types of bags.  Paper bags require a lot of energy, water and obviously trees to make. Plastic bags, while more energy efficient to make, often end up in landfills or littered on the sides of roads.

So which bag do you choose?

Well, if you live in Los Angeles this decision might soon be a moot point.

A Los Angeles city council committee is moving forward with a plan to ban plastic and paper bags, requiring shoppers to bring their own bags to grocery stores, thus forever ending the argument between paper and plastic.

However, this ban would bring an end to many jobs as well, not to mention consumer choice.

“This attempt to ban the use of plastic and paper bags is nothing more than fulfilling an item on the wish list of a left-leaning environmentalist city.” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  “This ban will hurt manufacturing jobs and consumers who now have to buy reusable bags. It’s nothing more than another tax and way to raise money for the city.”

The council’s Energy and Environment Committee still needs to obtain an environmental review of the bag ban, but once the ordinance is in place, stores will receive a six-month warning that plastic bags are no longer permitted.

“Once the plastic bag ban is in place, supermarkets would be required to charge 10 cents for each paper bag. Six months later, paper bags would be prohibited as well,” Councilman Paul Koretz, who wrote the proposal, told the LA Times.

The committee is taking this proposal very seriously, comparing it to requiring seat belts or banning smoking in restaurants.  If this ordinance goes into effect, 7,500 stores will be banned from giving out bags.

Consumer choice then becomes either, A. buy a reusable bag, or B. carry out all your groceries in your arms.  This could become a bit of a pain if you get up to the checkout counter with a full cart of groceries and realize you’ve forgotten your bags.

But regardless, what isn’t given much thought or care by this Los Angeles committee is the amount of manufacturing jobs that will be lost as a result of banning plastic and paper bags.

“I will be losing my job, losing my insurance. Please take that into consideration,” Norma Fierro, an employee of plastic bag manufacturer Crown Poly, whose managers had warned that a bag ban could result in layoffs for 20 to 130 employees, told the Times.

Her plea was met with a statement by Councilman Koretz that compared Crown Poly to makers of horse-drawn carriages at the start of the 20th century—obviously saying the company wasn’t necessary any longer.

I’m sure many Americans who work at both plastic and paper bag companies feel differently, as well as many consumers.

American Plastic Manufacturing states that, “Studies have shown that 80 to 90 percent of the population reuses plastic grocery bags at least once. As trash bin liners, for picking up after pets, as lunch sacks, holding wet laundry, etc. Plastic bags are also very easy to recycle, and most grocery stores provide bag recycling bins.”

Likewise, The Renewable Bag Council states that paper bags are made from a renewable resource, trees, and more often than not, paper bags are recycled at a high rate and also decompose much faster than plastic if they end up in a landfill.

The city council committee along with the many environmental groups who support this ban must be looking at it from the perspective of less waste, less litter and less trash, right?

Maybe not.  According to the Daily Caller, Vice President of Sustainability and Environmental Policy for Helix Poly, Mark Daniels, wrote in a statement:

“The proposed policy will have no real impact on litter, instead it will only force residents to purchase less environmentally-friendly alternatives like reusable bags, nearly all of which are not recyclable, are less sanitary, are made in China using foreign oil, and often contain heavy metals. Worse, bag bans inflict a regressive tax on the disadvantaged, impose a burden on small businesses, and are a threat to local manufacturing jobs.”

Well, there you have it. Happy Earth Day, Los Angeles residents, and don’t forget your reusable bags next time you go the store.  You’ll need them to carry out the boxes of bags you now have to purchase for use as trash liners.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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