Thursday, February 07, 2008

Are plastic bags so bad?

There's been lots of news recently about bans on plastic grocery bags. The grocery store Whole Foods is not going to be offering them anymore, and they were banned entirely from Ireland.

What I haven't seen is any debate about the issue. Why are they so bad? The accepted notion is that they're bad for the environment because they don't degrade, and apparently last for thousands of year (which I have a hard time believing - thousands of years? Really?). And, wildlife can eat the plastic bags and choke.

Well, let's look at the plus side of plastic bags:
1. They're convenient! I can carry my son Peter in one arm and 2 plastic grocery bags in the other.
2. They don't break! Unless you really overload them, your average plastic grocery bag is tough. (especially the ones from Whole Foods - they were great!). Paper bags, on the other hand, break on me all the time, not to mention that they're difficult to hold.
3. They're tiny! I can shove a few in a little pocket of my diaper bag for emergencies.
4. They're waterproof! (See the above bullet point for why waterproof is critical at times.)

Okay, yes - plastic bags look terrible strewn about a parking lot. But that's not the fault of the plastic bags, that's the fault of the people littering.

Also, apparently creating recycled paper is much more energy intensive than creating plastic bags. And what about transporting paper bags? They're so much bulkier and heavier that they have to be much more expensive to transport (which means more trucks spewing more exhaust).

Looks to me like another "anything for the environment" movement without a whole lot of critical thinking applied.

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