Katherine Mangu-Ward restarts the debate about plastic-bag bans:
You know what’s gross? Reusable grocery bags. Think about it: You put a leaky package of chicken in your cloth or plastic tote. Then you empty the bag, crumple it up, and toss in the trunk of your car to fester. A week later, you go shopping again and throw some veggies you’re planning to eat raw into the same bag. Ew.
And that’s just the yuck factor. There’s also an ongoing debate about the environmental and economic impact of these increasingly popular bans and taxes. Luckily, Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine, issued a new report today that looks at the issue from just about every angle. The report addresses my pet peeve, the health impact of reusable bags, quoting one survey in Arizona and California which found coliform bacteria in half of the bags tested.
Research has substantially demonstrated that plastic bags are harmful to the environment. Lightweight bags are carried by winds to litter roadsides, trees, and streets throughout urban and rural landscapes. The thin plastic breaks down in the environment into tiny pieces that lead to the deaths of birds and marine life. And it has also been shown without doubt that the billions of single-use plastic bags used each year – eight billion in 2012 in England alone – are produced at great cost. It is estimated that the amount of energy needed to make 12 single-use bags could power a car for a mile.