By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware
How many times have you gotten to the grocery checkout line only to realize that the bags that you should be putting your groceries in are sitting in the car or by the front door where you meant to pick them up on your way out? Or maybe you’ve juggled “10 items or less” in your arms as you try to unlock the car because you refused to buy one more of those [darn] bags that are piling up in your house or car on your way through checkout? You are not alone.
In states that have banned the use of “single use” plastic bags (also called film bags), “reusable” plastic bags are piling up, in cars, basements, garages and ultimately, the landfill.
The purported purpose of this social engineering experiment was to save the environment. A recent study calls the success of that objective into question. Fredonia Custom Research examined the impact of the single use plastic bag ban in New Jersey. It found that, since the ban was implemented, actual plastic consumption went up 300%. Additionally, the most utilized of these reusable bags are comprised of woven polypropylene, which is not widely recycled in the United States, and they are not usually made of recycled materials. Their use has been accelerated by escalating availability of delivery services for groceries and other items, which also are banned from single use containers. And, it turns out the increased production of woven polypropylene results in a significant increase in greenhouse gases.
When you look at it rationally, like many other policies our governments have adopted lately because it sounded like a good idea, there is little to commend the ban. It is just another example of government meddling in our lives without considering the consequences of their actions.
And those single use bags weren’t really single use. A quick survey of my friends indicated that they were used for cat litter, wet towels for swimsuits from the beach or pool, dirty shoes when packing to come home from a trip, and Christmas card envelopes so they knew who to send cards to next year, etc.
And, ironically, because most of those who are motivated by a mission to support the environment don’t usually support business, the ban has been super for profits. Not only do the stores not have to provide a bag, they can sell you one instead. Of course, public relations have suffered for those stores. After all, if they don’t have a bag for you when you don’t have your own, you hate them. If they have bags, but they charge you for them, you hate them.
Reusable bags are not the only example of government run reckless. Laws relating to electric vehicles, plastic straws, and incandescent lightbulbs are all the result of feel-good policies with unintended consequences, and science and data contrary to the proclaimed good results the legislation would achieve. Ultimately, the answer to this issue is to have all the facts before you make a decision, consider the alternatives and whether the objective is achievable and how best to achieve it. No reasonable person is opposed to the end objective of many of these policies, but no rational person would take the path many legislatures and Congress have to achieve those objectives.
There was a saying in the 1960s, “If it feels good, do it”. It was not a good way to live a life. It is an even worse way to govern.
Jane Brady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court.