Hey, California! Want to Conserve Water? Then Don’t Ban Plastic Bags.

Enemy of the stateCalifornia is attempting once
again to
ban plastic grocery bags statewide
. SB 270 would require all
grocery stores, liquor stores and pharmacies to offer reusable bags
or recycled paper bags instead. It’s been well-established that bag
bans will
barely make any dent
at all in the state’s waste make-up or fix
litter problems.  Even a company that produces reusable bags
and hates plastic bags thinks a bag ban is a
bad idea
, because it’s “an emotional response which fails to
strike at the heart of the issue; instead of a market-based
solution, a ban shifts production to paper bags and compostable
bags, both of which have heavy environmental consequences.”

California is also in the middle of a drought so severe that
Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to discourage people from
flushing the toilet
. Californians are urged to cut water
consumption by 20 percent and rural communities are in potential
danger of running out.

We have a contradiction in environmental goals. If Californians
do switch to reusable bags, in order to use them safely, the bags
will need to be washed regularly, increasing residents’ water
consumption. Here’s the full list of tips from the
state’s Department of Public Health
(pdf) when turning to
reusable grocery bags:

At home:

  • Reusable grocery bags should be machine or hand-washed
    frequently! Dry the bags in a clothes dryer or allow them to air
  • After putting groceries away, clean the areas where the bags
    were placed while
  • unbagging your groceries, especially the kitchen counter and
    the kitchen table where food items may later be prepared or
  • If food residues from any food products have leaked into the
    bag, make sure to wash and dry the bag thoroughly before
  • If reusable grocery bags have been used to transport non-food
    items, such as detergents, household cleaners, and other chemicals,
    wash and dry the bags before using them to transport food items.
    Alternatively, you may wish to use bags of one color for food items
    and bags of a different color for non-food items.
  • Store grocery bags away from sources of contamination, such as
    pets, children,and chemicals. Storing reusable grocery bags in the
    trunk of cars is not recommended. During the warmer months, the
    increased temperatures can promote the growth of bacteria that may
    be present on the bags. 

At the store:

  • Place reusable bags on the bottom shelf of the grocery cart
    (below the cart basket where food products are placed).
  • When selecting packages of meat, poultry, or fish, consider
    putting the packages in clear plastic bags (often available in the
    meat and produce sections) to prevent leaking juices from
    contaminating other food items and the reusable grocery bags.
  • Fresh produce should be placed in clear plastic bags to help
    protect the items from contamination.
  • At checkout, do not place reusable grocery bags on the conveyor
    belt. Hand the bags to the checker/bagger or, if self-bagging,
    carry the bags to the bagging area at the end of the checkout
  • Meat, poultry, and fish should be placed in separate reusable
    bags from fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Non-food items should be placed in separate reusable bags from
    food products

There’s quite a bit of cleaning and water consumption suggested
by the state itself (and note the recommendation of single-use
plastic bags!). But does it add up to much? A researcher at
California State University, Chico, assessed the energy
consumption, waste production and water use involved over the
lifetime of various
types of bags
(pdf). The results vary, but for certain types of
reusable plastic bags, their manufacture and use over the course of
a year will consume four times as much water as the same number of
single-use plastic bags.  The trade-off is that the reuse of
the bag reduces waste and energy consumption in other areas.

Paper bags, by the way, are an awful alternative for anybody
wanting to conserve water. The manufacture of single-use paper bags
uses 17 times the amount of water as single-use plastic bags. The
bags they’re offering in grocery stores in Los Angeles, for
example, may not have been made in California, so they may not be
adding to the state’s drought woes. Still, though, nobody who is
actually in favor of conservation should support paper bags over
single-use plastic bags.

The larger point, other than plastic bag bans being poorly
considered manifestations of green populism, is that priorities
matter in environmental regulation. The state of California’s water
supply is much more important than its consumption of plastic bags.
Going for a state-wide ban on plastic bags runs counter to the
state’s need to conserve water.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1jU0WSa

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