You may have seen my recent article on Reason.com about the plastic bag ban being forced on the citizens of Los Angeles. There wasn’t room for everything I wanted to write so here’s another reason why the ban doesn’t make any sense:
Plastic grocery bags don’t usually make their way into the environment by shoppers being irresponsible with them after they get them home with their groceries. Most people reuse them and others recycle them or throw them in the trash. So how do some bags end up in storm drains or in trees or into the ocean? Well, one route is through overflowing or open topped public garbage cans. A few weeks ago my fiancé and I took a hike in a local park on a busy holiday weekend. We noticed quite a bit of litter, including some plastic bags. Then we walked through the picnic area and found that the trash cans were full and overflowing.
And we’ve seen this same situation at many of the local beaches, especially on busy weekends. Certainly the users of the parks and beaches bear some responsibility for not overstuffing the trash cans but the city also is at fault for not supplying enough trash cans and not emptying them often enough. So will the ban solve this problem? No. People will still have access to some plastic bags and they’ll use them to bring things to the parks and beaches. Some will be thrown away and then escape from the trash can.
The problem with trash escaping into the environment is solvable and it doesn’t involve banning a very useful and convenient product. One solution is to make sure that public trash receptacles are covered and emptied more often. But seeing how the Los Angeles City Council has acted on this and other issues, maybe they’ll just ban picnics.
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