Bleg: What drives the anti-plastic-bag campaign?
December 9, 2012, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a sincere question.

Many (mostly SWPL) localities have now either banned or slapped a tax on the use of plastic bags from e.g. the supermarket. Here’s what I don’t understand:


As usual, there are two ways to answer this: (1) why do people favor such policies psychologically or emotionally, and (2) what’s their stated rationale for the policies. I am looking for the answer to #2 because I honestly and sincerely don’t know what it is.

This is one of those policies that just seemed to bubble to the surface of SWPL thinking without ever going through any sort of ‘let’s have a rational discussion about it’ phase. All right-thinking SWPLers just spontaneously and simultaneously decided that Let’s Nudge People Away From Plastic Bags was sound public policy without putting forth any real arguments for this.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe something resembling an argument was put forth, and I just missed it since I was too busy catching up on White Collar episodes. So, that’s my question: What was the Real Argument for the anti-plastic-bag pogrom?

If you know, let me know. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: For the record, these policies mostly just make me want to use a lot of plastic bags. For SPITE. If that involves paying a tax, so be it. You can’t put a price on SPITE!

13 Comments so far
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Roughly, it was the mexican plastic forests, and the great pacific garbage patch.

Comment by aretae

Not following you. To what are you referring?

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Yeah, Google got me to the same places. But I guess what I’m missing is, what’s the (purported) connection between those things, and how many plastic bags are used in SWPLand County, Bluestate?

Is/can Bluestate not sequester its trash – whether plastic bags or whatever else – in a place that doesn’t end up in the ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’ or on Mexican trees?

Is this genuinely a migration that people are asserting takes place in significant-enough numbers for Busybody Ladies from SWPLand County, Bluestate to be agitating against?

(edit: Which is to say, my default assumption here is that this is mostly just about Busybody Ladies in the various SWPLands not having enough real things to spend their time/energy worrying about.)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

oh, then yeah. your default is correct. it’s a way to signal ‘concern’ about ‘climate change’. a particularly useless and inconvenient to normal people way.

Comment by A Lady

But see, even that answer bothers me. Is it about ‘climate change’ or is it about trash in the Pacific? I feel like their phony faux concern reasons aren’t even consistent (which is part & parcel of why I don’t know what the Actual Reasons are).

Comment by Sonic Charmer

I live near Austin where a bag ban is about to take effect in January. The stated goal was moving the city towards zero net garbage (or whatever they call it) in which city residents ultimately recycle more than they dispose. It is sold as a cost saving due to reduced landfill cost. The proponents also sprinkled in the Pacific garbage patch and “blown” bags being ugly but the official reason was reducing garbage.

Editorially, plastic grocery bags have to be one of the least important inputs to the overall garbage stream in both mass and volume so the stated reason was bunk from the beginning. The real reason is that the SWPL Austinites already owned dozens of environmentally-friendly reusable Whole Foods grocery bags and they didn’t see how anyone could even miss those flimsly, low-class Walmart bags. Might as well ban them so we can:

a) Preen about our love for the environment
b) Make no personal sacrifice in doing it

Luckily, I live near Austin, not in Austin so my groceries will still be in plastic bags.

Comment by Jimmy

Yes, if the goal is ‘zero net garbage’ two questions are raised:

1. Why?
2. What do plastic bags – which have got to be barely a rounding error in the overall garbage volume – have to do with anything?

But like you say, the stated purpose isn’t the real motive. It just can’t be.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

I always thought it was the environment, and that plastic bags don’t degrade. Maybe I’m just channeling my elementary school years with that, as I’m not sure I’ve heard the term ‘biodegradable’ in years.

Does the incandescent bulb lynch mob make any more sense? I always thought that one was stupid.

Comment by Matt

Right but ‘the environment’ encompasses many things. I guess if your theory is right, the concern is that plastic bags degrade too slowly, and these localities therefore…uh…don’t want to produce as many of them or something, because…they run their own landfills? (I’m assuming)

If that’s the reason, fine, but it raises the question of why a ban is the best/only way to deal with that problem. A tax, I can understand more, IF the tax is being used to chemically treat plastic bags so they degrade better or something. (I’m sure it’s not)

It’s annoying that it’s so hard to pin down the reason. Makes it hard to argue with (or even just to accept, if it’s justifiable!)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

None of these localities run their own landfills. The ban does include the social engineering mentioned (to try to pressure people into actually using the reusable bags, they get purchased, acquired, but are rarely used and even more rarely used correctly, with washing between uses).

Comment by A Lady

Washing between uses!

Lady, you are of course correct, but no one does that. What uses more energy, the production, distribution and disposal of the next plastic bag, or washing your Whole Foods cloth bag?

Also, how many of you have seen people wash out their recyclables? I’ve seen people put their glass jars through the dishwasher before the dump them in the recycling bin. I cringe at the additional water and energy usage. Well, I don’t cringe, but I wonder what these people are thinking when they rinse out cans and jars.

All of this recycling can’t be anything more than a palliative to some deep seated psychological problem. You can’t even have a rational discussion with the typical enviro.

Comment by Mike

[…] grocery bags kill. I ask not for the first time: what the hell is the actual argument against plastic bags? Why wasn’t the ‘Reality-Based Community’, full of its Smart People, required to […]

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