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[greenyes] Plastics News Editorial on Grocery Plastic Bag Bans
 PLASTICS NEWS - 9/8/03Opinion
Heading off debate on bag bans & taxes

When you see headlines like - "Are plastic grocery bags sacking the
environment?" - on the Web site of a respected publication like National
Geographic, then it looks like the battle is already lost.
Well, the battle isn't lost, but it looks like it's getting ready to heat
up, and soon. The fight will be over bans and taxes on plastic bags.

It's not a new battle, to be sure. Environmentalists and paper bag makers
have been bad-mouthing plastic bags for at least 20 years. But now, as
product bans and taxes have gained traction elsewhere, it looks like the
plastics industry will have to gear up to fight similar proposals in North

National Geographic's Sept. 2 story certainly is balanced, but it still
doesn't paint a pretty picture: "The totes are everywhere. They sit balled
up and stuffed into the one that hangs from the pantry door. They line
bathroom trash bins. They carry clothes to the gym. They clutter landfills.
They flap from trees. They float in the breeze. They clog roadside drains.
They drift on the high seas. They fill sea turtle bellies."

That pretty much summarizes the story. Plastics successfully have taken the
bulk of the bag market - at least 80 percent - and consumers frequently find
ingenious ways to reuse them. But many also end up as litter, which is
finding its way to the far corners of the planet. One marine scientist
predicts plastic bags will be washing up in Antarctica within 10 years.

The magazine suggests two solutions: a tax on plastic bags, and more
widespread use of reusable shopping bags. You can be sure legislators and
activists will spend more time looking at taxes than replacements. After
all, it's impossible to mandate use of reusable bags, and a tax has the
added benefit of generating revenue for the state. Ireland is touted as a
success story - its tax equivalent to about 20 cents per bag has cut use
about 95 percent and dramatically reduced bag litter, said Friends of the
Irish Environment.

Sure, charging the public a fee for something they now get for free would
cut consumption. And that's not all bad. Try, for example, ordering a single
burger from a drive-through restaurant, and you know you're going to get it
in a bag. The same goes for a single loaf of bread at a supermarket, or
anything more than a pack of cigarettes and a gallon of milk at a
convenience store.

But there's no need to single out plastic bags. Paper bags create litter
too. And plastic bags are both reusable and recyclable - many groceries
collect used bags and sell them to plastic lumber makers.




[For full editorial go to]

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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