New Jersey’s plastic bag ban is based on politics, not science, say critics – InsideSources

A month after New Jersey banned single-use plastic bags, critics say the facts haven’t changed: It’s feel-good politics but lousy science.

As of May 4, the Garden State banned retail stores, grocery stores and food service businesses from providing single-use plastic bags. It also forces restaurants and food trucks to stop serving takeout in polystyrene-like products. Grocery stores and retailers must also stop selling Styrofoam products like plates and cups.

In fact, New Jersey is the first state to take the extreme step of ban paper bags in stores over 2,500 square feet.

And if a local business refuses to comply, the state has set up what opponents call a “rat line” – a phone number and website where customers can report it to the Department of Environmental Protection for suspected violations.

Gov. Phil Murphy says it’s for the good of New Jersey.

Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of waste, resulting in millions of discarded bags pouring into our landfills, rivers and oceans each year,” the Democrat said while signing the legislation. “With the signing of today’s landmark bill, we are tackling the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

New Jersey isn’t the only state to ban plastic bags. At least eight others have similar laws, along with some major cities like Boston and Los Angeles. However, New Jersey’s ban is considered the strictest in the country. Unlike other places where retailers charge a small fee for customers requesting a plastic bag, customers in New Jersey don’t have that option.

“No single-use plastic bags can be used in store checkouts, free or paid”, Katie Kausch reports on NJ.com. And when it comes to paper bags, she notes that “the average grocery store is over 30,000 square feet, so the size restriction means even the smallest Trader Joe’s will be banned from handing out brown paper bags.”

While environmental organizations including the Sierra Club applaud the plastic bag ban, political groups such as the Reason Foundation say they are scientifically wrong.

Julian Morrissenior researcher at Reason Foundation, says banning plastic or single-use bags in stores unnecessarily limits the availability and use of a highly beneficial technology that has made shopping more convenient, likely reduced the incidence food-borne illnesses and creates less CO2 than the alternatives.

“Also, the average HDPE bag is used more than once, often to transport items or to dispose of trash,” says Morris, author of “How green is this grocery bag?” “So they’re not really ‘single-use’ bags.”

Zachary Taylor, director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, notes that when single-use bags are taken off the shelves, consumers then buy thicker, more plastic-intensive bags to take their place in the trash or for dog service.

“The single-use bag ban is billed as a ‘bag ban’, but what it actually does is force consumers to use alternative products. It’s the bags with handles, which are mostly made or imported from some of the world’s worst polluters,” Taylor said.

“And they’re still made of plastic, like polypropylene or nylon, materials that can’t be recycled at the end of their life cycle.

“You’re starting to see reports of door-to-door delivery that’s just driving more of these reusable sewn handle bags to consumers’ homes, where they have a greater [negative] environmental impact than the products that were banned in the first place,” Taylor added.

Supporters of the ban say customers should bring their own reusable shopping bags from home. “It’s a small price to pay to help save the lives of millions of animals…and our planet,” says a Blog on reusable bags on Pens.com.

Morris says any notion that these bags are superior to plastic bags is simply wrong.

“For example, there is evidence that reusable bags can transmit foodborne illness if not properly cleaned between uses,” Morris says. “Meanwhile, paper bags are generally much weaker than plastic bags and therefore more susceptible to breakage, which can damage goods.”

Morris adds that “numerous life cycle studies” have shown that for typical use patterns, single-use plastic bags are a better option than alternatives when it comes to carbon emissions and resource consumption. natural.

Writing for the City Journal, legendary environmental journalist John Tierney dismisses the claim that “single-use plastic bags are the worst environmental choice in the supermarket.” False: it is the best choice. Although they are strong enough to handle weekly purchases, they are “so thin and light that they require little energy, water or other natural resources to manufacture and transport”.

The result, reports Tierney: “The net effect of banning plastic grocery bags is more global warming. The exact amount more depends on the life cycle analysis of the researchers you choose, but there is definitely more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

And so, while environmentalists may be behind New Jersey’s anti-plastic bag push, even green groups are acknowledging the data and advising carbon-conscious consumers to avoid cotton bags — including organic bags — by because of their larger carbon footprint.

As for the “bag blowing in the wind” argument, Morris has an answer to that, too.

“If a municipality is considering banning plastic bags because activists say the bags cause litter, it’s probably time to look at the situation with litter and waste management,” Morris says. “The presence of plastic bags in the streets, sewers and beaches is a sign that people are not disposing of their waste properly.”

Bryce K. Locke