San-Francisco-style plastic bag ban becoming a national fad

posted at 3:05 pm on March 29, 2012 by Tina Korbe

It seems like such a small issue, hardly one to warrant an outraged reaction. After all, if a city or state chooses to implement a plastic bag ban and residents don’t like it, residents are free to move, right? That’s true — but, as more states consider a ban on the easily recyclable grocery store staples, the topic seems worth a post. As Ronald Reagan once said, “The first duty of government is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Shouldn’t that go for local and state governments, as well?

In her eye-opening defense of Romneycare, Ann Coulter once argued that state-level governments are authorized by the Constitution to essentially compel citizens to do whatever, whenever, wherever. Even if that’s true, does it follow that they should? The perils of government intervention might be less at the local or state level, but they’re still there. Consider these bag bans. They might actually have the opposite of their intended effect — and they cost manufacturing jobs to boot. From Breitbart:

The nanny state fad, which notched an important victory late last year in Seattle, is predicated on the notion that plastic bags are irresponsibly produced and rarely recycled. Yet neither warped argument is grounded in reality.

Moving consumers away from plastic bags only pushes people to less environmentally friendly options such as paper bags, which require more energy to produce and transport, and reusable bags, which are not recyclable,” the vice president of sustainability and environmental policy for Hilex Poly, the company who launched the Bag the Ban group, told the New York Times of the Seattle ban.

An analysis by the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency revealed in 2006 that plastic bags have a lighter environmental footprint than paper alternatives.

American plastic bags, which represent a majority of those in circulation in American markets, are overwhelmingly the product of natural gas, not oil. 85 percent of the raw material used for the bags are the products of natural gas. And, according to figures by the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic bag recycling has doubled in the last 9 years. 900 million pounds of bags were recycled in 2010 alone.

Again, plastic bags actually have a lighter environmental footprint than paper alternatives. So, what? Should we just stop trying at any level to improve society through government? Er, maybe. Government exists to ensure order; it doesn’t exist to solve every societal ill. It’s a referee, not a coach. The sooner we get back to that mentality — again, at every level of government — the better.


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