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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Plastic Bag Bans

At some later date I will explain my hyatus the last four plus months, in the mean time here is letter to the editor that was not printed today, Tuesday December 7, 2010. This evening the Long Beach City Council is scheduled to vote to ban plastic bags being given away at grocery stores and other merchants.

Here is a link to the Press-Telegram story where I got the figures they used that I rebut in my letter: Will Long Beach Ban Plastic Bags?

Dear Editor:

I question the veracity of some of the “facts” published in the P-T article on plastic bags. One “fact” was that plastic bags make up “25 percent of the county’s litter stream.” That would mean 25% of most trash trucks, trash cans, and dumpsters would be plastic bags. Simple visual observations tells us this is not true and an inflated number used by ban supporters. One “fact” is that Californians use 19 million plastic bags per year, and also that they generate 147,038 tons of waste per year. For these numbers to equate each plastic bag must weight fifteen and a half pounds. Apparently another set of inflated statistics. Finally, the “fact” that “Californians throw away 600 plastic bags per second” would mean over 2 million per hour, or almost 52 million per day. How can we throw away 52 million per day in California and use only 19 million? Especially if they weigh over fifteen pounds apiece?

Once again elected officials in California take inflated statistics from alleged experts to create an intrusive law (see AB 32). Those of us who act responsibly, re-use and recycle our plastic bags are made to pay for those who feel litter is fine and part of their neighborhoods and throw their plastic bags and other trash in the streets, alleys and sidewalks. Congratulations to the grocers in Signal Hill, Lakewood, Seal Beach and other border cities for the increased business they will do when Long Beach City Council bans the fifteen pound plastic bags.

Dennis C. Smith
Long Beach, CA


Bob Schilling said...

Hey Dennis,

Nice to see you're back. Clearly the supporters of the ban didn't get their facts straight, and that's usually fatal to a proposal.

One question I have is whether the current number of plastic bags that escape the waste disposal stream is a problem. We're using fewer bags than we were, partly because people who are concerned about the environment have chosen not to use them. So the first question is whether we need to do anything.

If we do need a law, what should it be? We can tax the bags, I suppose. But I wonder whether we could set a target as a community and see how close we could get through voluntary action -- passing out reusable shopping bags, holding rallies, giving free publicity to stores that come up with innovative ways to replace bags, that kind of thing.

It breaks my liberal heart to say it, but it seems like building more government just to deal with plastic bags is overkill, at least until other alternatives have been tried and found wanting.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Smith:

I believe you erred in citing the number of plastic bags used in the State. There are approximately 36 million people in CA. At 19 million bags that'e about 1/2 a bag per person. Don't you mean 19 billion bags or roughly 200 per year per resident, which from the amount of grocercy shopping we do appears to be about right.

Robert O'Connor

Dennis C Smith said...

Mr. O'Connor:

Thanks for your comment, I did not dissect the number of bags used per person but rather used the 19 million bags used in California against the total tonnage in trash they create, which would make the bags weigh 15 pounds apiece.

Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment

Diane Ewoldt said...

Hi Dennis, I enjoy your posts but you need to read the article a little more closely for your calculations on bags weighing 15 pounds a piece. Californians (all 37,238,114 of them) use approximately 19 Billion plastic bags(not 19 Million which would be far less than 1 per person). The 25% of the litter stream is not the total amount of trash, but refers to the street litter, much of which ends up in the storm drains and Long Beach's shores after a good rain. This is a multi faceted issue that can't be solved with any snap judgement fixes. The reusable bag concept is a start that has been utilized in Europe for a LONG time. Maybe Californians just need a little nudge to do the right thing.