Why bag bans are wrong!

It doesn't take much thought to reveal the negative sides to bag bans. These bag bans are much more damaging than just a misled city council pushing their personal agenda onto their citizens so they can feel warm and fuzzy. Bag bans set a terrible example of how misguided politicians can disrupt and infuriate their citizens. Here are some of the top reasons why bag bans are bad, and why we work to oppose them:
  1. Bag bans are based on lies, distortions, myths, and half-truths
    If bag bans were based on real evidence that there was a significant and direct link between plastic shopping bags and serious environmental damage, then the public would be supporting bag bans and they likely wouldn't even be needed. But any type of review of the claims reveals faulty evidence, stretched or non-existent statistics, and completely illogical conclusions. The arguments for bag bans are filled with emotional statements and pleas, not logic. If some people believe those things, and choose not to use plastic bags, then that is fine for them. But the government should not pass laws based on such shoddy and pathetic arguments on everyone.

  2. Bag bans impose on the liberties and freedoms of businesses and citizens
    The government should never carelessly remove a citizen's freedom or impose practices on a business they would not willingly practice themselves, without a grave and dire situation. In this case, the government has stepped in and stopped businesses from offering a free product to customers, and stopped customers from receiving a free service that they have enjoyed. Because it is virtually impossible to shop and transport items without some type of container, they have, in effect, now mandated citizens into spending money and operating in a way that they did not choose previously. This is government intrusion into business practices that also removes a benefit previously enjoyed by citizens in the cities affected.

  3. City councils are now deciding which conveniences are allowable and which are not
    Bag bans set a very scary precedent enabling officials to determine what particular use of an object is deemed "worthy" in their eyes. They are deeming that a citizen may use a plastic bag for one purpose (such as garbage can liners) but not another (to transport items). This opens the door to the city government now going through all aspects of citizen's lives to determine acceptable uses for particular objects, based on how they feel about the material in that object or whether someone feels it isn't that hard for people to give it up. Styrofoam cups? Unworthy, bring your own. Straws? Unworthy, drink from the cup. Napkins? Unworthy, bring a handkerchief. Plastic water bottles? Unworthy, drink from the tap. Plastic garbage bags? Unworthy. Compost and use newspaper instead.

  4. Almost everything we make is “bad for the environment”, so why focus on just one type of bag for one particular use?
    Virtually everything that man makes and uses is made of some materials that could be argued are bad for the environment, or at least "unnatural". Why is one particular application of one particular material being singled out and demonized? Why isn't everything banned?

  5. City councils have begun a new practice of fixing minimum pricing for items
    "Minimum price" also sets a dangerous precedent: The city council has now fixed a "minimum price" for an object. In their zeal to pass the law, many cities and states purposely avoided making the allowed reusable bag charge a "tax" because the citizens would then have to approve it. They felt they would be so clever to avoid this by instituting a "minimum fee" for the paper bag, not collected by the city. (This also doubles as a bribe to the stores to support bag bans as the stores can now pocket the money.) However, they have now introduced a new concept that is almost more dangerous than their plastic bag ban itself: price fixing for their own purposes. Can you think of any other item that has a "minimum price"?
    And notice the odd conclusion: They have not banned all bags, but have set a "minimum price" on them in order to avoid people who previously received free plastic bags from simply changing over to paper bags. The city council is saying "Certain bags are OK, but we are going to force you to pay for them now because we want you to stop getting free bags and adopt a certain lifestyle that we choose for you." They actually don't even have any arguments against paper bags, they just don't want you to use them for that purpose!

  6. City councils are burdening businesses with needless accounting
    Most bag bans allow for sales of paper bags or approved thick plastic bags at minimum fees. They also include mandatory accounting for the sales of these bags for a minimum of 3 years, and the business must be ready at any time for an inspection of those records. What a senseless, needless, burden on all businesses!

  7. Bag bans do not take into account the multiple reuses of bags
    Backers of bag bans continuously label the bags "single-use" bags. But how many of them are really single-use? Why would people stockpile plastic grocery bags at home if they had no other purpose? Why would places like IKEA and other stores sell storage containers particularly made for reusing plastic bags?
    The sad irony in all of this is that plastic grocery bags are probably one of the MOST REUSED items that we bring into our homes, yet those are the ones that they target to ban! What about the truly single use newspaper bag? For some reason no one seems concerned about that one!

  8. Bag bans punish everyone for the bad behavior of a few
    Plastic bags floating in creeks, storm drains, and into the ocean is bad. Everyone hates them, and the people who litter. But why are ALL people blamed for the bad behavior of a few? Even if you believe the claims of the number of plastic bags washing into the San Francisco bay, it represents only 1 out of every 3,000 bags at most. So 2,999 people have to be blamed for the bad behavior of one person (or possible just the incompetency of the garbage company in transporting and managing garbage)? This is like saying that because some people park their cars illegally in front of fire hydrants (blocking vital services), the solution is to ban ALL cars in the city!

  9. Plastic bags are an insignificant portion of total waste
    Ever weigh a plastic grocery bag? They are purposely made as thinly as possible to carry the amount of load required. They weigh only about 1/4 of an ounce each. Really??? All of this regulation, confusion, inconvenience, and effort over a one-quarter ounce piece of plastic? Even if you used 8-9 bags per week (as is claimed by the bag ban proponents), that is barely over 2 ounces of plastic! A family generally disposes of 80 - 100 pounds per week of trash. But the city councils sure feel good about stopping those 2 ounces!

  10. Bag bans are applied unfairly and without logic
    Why is it that the proponents claim plastic bags are clogging our drains, streams, and oceans, yet they overlook the MILLIONS of newspaper plastic bags that are thrown down into our driveways and gutters every year? As soon as there is a 1% chance of rain, the newspaper companies start wrapping their newspapers in plastic bags and throwing them down just feet from storm drains. All because the newspaper carriers can't be inconvenienced enough to deliver the papers to our doorsteps, where they would be out of the rain! Yet those very same newspapers (such as the San Jose Mercury News) write op-ed pieces stating how the rest of us should be banned from getting plastic bags at the store. TOTAL HYPOCRITES!
    And why are there exceptions for certain businesses, such as charities that deal with reusing items (like Goodwill)? Are their plastic bags somehow "holier" than ours? Are they somehow less destructive to the environment? Try asking some city considering a bag ban why they exempt these organizations, and they fumble around and mumble guessing that it must be something about them recycling enough material that they should not be punished. Really? These people have no idea, they just copy the bag ban from another city without questions!

  11. Bag bans have no measurement of success, no review, and no accountability
    Notice that bag bans never promise anything. There is no measurement, no review, and no promise of anything except inconvenience! Some will write crafty reports later stating that there was a reduction in the number of bags cleaned up on drains. Well OF COURSE. You banned EVERYONE from getting them, what else do you expect? The question is this: is it worth it? And it does not make sense to count the number of bags cleaned up, because that measures a zero effect (i.e. those are bags that were already being cleaned up before the ban, so did not have a negative effect on the environment.) So an entire city struggles with a bag ban so city workers can clean up a few less bags. What was the cost of those few less bags cleaned up in time and effort of the entire city? Our initial estimates indicate it costs the people of the city about $15,000 in time and effort for every bag that a city employee does not need to clean up, based on the quantities mentioned in the City of San Jose report.

  12. Cities are spending millions on bag bans
    When bag bans are implemented, the city must prepare information, pamphlets, posters, packages, training material, and educational sessions for businesses as they roll out their ban. Just check some of the city websites who have implemented a bag ban, and you can find complete packages that the city will send out to your business to help you "implement the changes" of the bag ban.
    Add to that special call-in numbers, staff who are trained to respond to questions and inquiries, as well as city employees who must investigate claims and prosecute businesses for not following the ordinance.
    The City of San Jose set aside over $700,000 to fund the bag ban in addition to the extra burden it creates on many of its agencies. (The total cost is much higher.)
    Imagine that. Cities that are hurting for finances, need to raise taxes, and are cutting services are passing silly laws that cost the city more money just to stop their citizens from receiving a free service that they had enjoyed previously! This doesn't even factor in the cost to the people.

  13. Cities could solve the supposed problems for less than enforcing a new law
    Something that is obviously (and purposely) overlooked with plastic bag bans is that they never address the problem. They don't ask where the littered plastic bags are coming from, or examine further restrictions on garbage trucks (who spew many of the plastic bags out onto the streets), or consider easier ways to solve the supposed "problem". Consider if the City of San Jose spent their hundreds of thousands of dollars to employ just one or two people who had a full time job of just walking the creeks and picking up plastic bags, or to hand out tickets to people they saw littering! It is obvious that they don't want to solve the problem, they just want to ban bags from people.

  14. Businesses and citizens already had the option to use reusable bags prior to bag bans
    Prior to the implementation of bag bans, no business was forced to offer plastic bags. And no customers were forced to take plastic bags!
    Bag bans are not about people who want to use reusable bags, or choose that as their lifestyle. Bag bans are specifically to STOP people who CHOOSE to use a plastic bag. It is not about people who agree, it is about controlling people who DO NOT AGREE.
    If people agreed with bag bans, then bag bans wouldn't be needed!
    The people vote with their choice. Stand in front of any store in a city without a bag ban and you will see about 80% of the people freely choosing plastic bags. But apparently some people (and too many city council members) do not like the choice that people made. So they have to take that away from them. Apparently, businesses and individuals are just too stupid to make the right choice.

  15. Bag bans hurt the poor
    Let's face it, any time an ordinance forces people to spend more money on something, it affects the poor in a more significant manner. But aside from just the cost to go out and purchase a large number of "reusable" bags, the fact is that the poor are more reliant on the convenience of plastic bags than anyone. They take public transportation or walk in much greater numbers. They shop at smaller stores, and buy a few items more often. Are they expected to walk around with handfuls of reusable bags all the time?
    The proponents always try to portray someone putting a bunch of bags in their car (oh yea, we meant Prius...) and driving down to Safeway and buying $100 worth of carefully planned groceries. They don't think about the poor person on public transportation, or walking on the street picking up a few items at the store on their way home. The poor are the most affected by bag bans.

  16. Bag bans hurt businesses
    Let's face it, businesses do things that optimize their profits. So why would businesses offer free bags? Because they don't want a few pennies worth of bags to stop customers from buying their products! It is a free, convenient service that they offer for a reason!
    Bag bans hurt businesses for the following reasons:
    - Shoppers can choose to go to a nearby city to buy the same product and get free bags (many vow to do so)
    - Shoppers forget their reusable bags, or do not bring enough. They then are not as open to buying additional items.
    - Business have to be the ones to enforce the bag ban on their customers, angering their customers
    - Some businesses have to discard previously printed paper bags that do not meet the minimum criteria, and all previously printed plastic bags
    - Businesses must stock and supply bigger, bulkier paper bags
    - Businesses must track all paper bag sales for a minimum of 3 years
    - Businesses are more prone to shoplifting, with customers carrying around multiple types of bags, and confusion over existing products that may have been purchased at another store. Why do you think some stores have signs that say "no backpacks"?
    - Clerks and checkers must spend more time dealing with customer's reusable bags, or trying to pack everything into as few "chargeable" paper bags as possible. Reusable bags cause more injuries to store clerks as they carry heavier weight and the clerks must deal with them at the counter level.
    - More shopping carts and baskets are used by customers to transport their groceries to their cars farther away, because they refuse to pay for bags. Shopping baskets virtually disappear within a few months from stores in cities that implement bag bans.

  17. Bag bans increase the number of paper bags used, which are worse than plastic
    It is extremely odd that plastic bags are banned while paper bags are allowed to continue. Many studies show that paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags. In addition to cutting down trees, they take more energy to create, ship, and stock than plastic bags. A stack of 1,000 plastic bags is about 4 inches. A stack of 1,000 paper bags is about 4 feet while 1000 plastic bags is about 4 inches.

  18. Bag bans result in businesses supplying even thicker plastic bags and higher customer charges
    Because many bag bans specify a minimum thickness of a plastic bag to be "reusable", many businesses are just switching to thicker plastic bags and selling them for the minimum price.
    Thus, where we used to get 10 thinner plastic bags for free, we now get 10 thicker plastic bags that we have to pay for. IT MAKES NO SENSE!
    Or consider a business like Trader Joe's. They had decided some time ago not to offer plastic bags, but only paper bags. (This is a business decision that they are perfectly fine in making.) Thus, the only change for Trader Joe's customers is that they have to pay for their paper bags that were previously free!

  19. Bag bans increase costs to the people
    A multitude of costs are imposed by the bag ban. Many of them are not considered or discussed. Here are a few of the costs:
    - People must buy a large number of "reusable" bags (for each of their cars, bags at home, etc.)
    - People must wash and dry those reusable bags regularly (oops, gotta buy more bags to use while you are washing your first set of reusable bags...)
    - People must manage the bags, taking them out of cars before shopping, returning unused bags in the cars, returning used bags back to cars after inspecting them for dirt, etc. 
    - Sometimes people need to drive by their house to pick up bags before going to the store, or return to their house after they start to the store when they realize they forgot their reusable bags
    - People must pay for paper bags when they forget their reusable bags. In fact, the majority of people have now just switched to paying for bags that were previously free. (And you wonder why the big grocery stores donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to passing bag bans?)
    - The estimated cost to manage reusable bags is $250 per year per family, when personal time is valued at $12 per hour. The estimated cost to just buy the bags at checkout is $75. (See reference article.)

  20. Bag bans are rarely voted on by the people
    With such a controversial law, an inconvenience to people and businesses, establishing a new principle of targeting "evil" uses of a product, and stepping on the freedom and liberties of both people and businesses, why don't the city councils put bag bans to the people for a vote?
    In fact, if you look at the bag bans carefully, you will see that virtually everything they do is meant to AVOID a public vote:
    - They don't consider a tax (why? couldn't the city use the funds?), but instead implement a ban to avoid a required public vote on a new tax.
    - They implement a "minimum fee" for paper bags instead of a tax, as that would require a public vote.
    - They never take a poll of the citizens to gauge opinion prior to a ban.
    You will NEVER see a bag ban advocate stating they want the people to vote. They don't. They just want to convince the majority of the city council to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

  21. Bag bans are being implemented by city council members to make them feel warm and fuzzy
    With no hard evidence, and no accountability, it is obvious that bag bans are being passed by city council members just to make them feel warm and fuzzy. They will claim that they carefully weighed the evidence, but it was a done deal from the beginning in their minds. They feel good about being "green", even if that decision doesn't actually do anything. They also feel the peer pressure from other cities that are passing bag bans. "What's wrong, isn't your city green?" At the end of the day, millions of citizens are inconvenienced, businesses are hurt, people get angry, and public health is even threatened for no real reason except city council members can feel good about themselves for passing a "green" law that accomplishes nothing. Here are some actual quotes from City Council Members:
    - "Why is our city so far behind others in this area? We don't want to be at the back of the pack!"
    - "We need to get people off their plastic habits. This is just a first step."
    - "They do this in Europe, we should do it here."
    - "I have heard that our city benefits from added business because we don't have a ban. But that's not fair to the other cities around us. We need to level the playing field."

  22. Bag bans make a mockery of the city council process
    Despite what the city council may think, the citizens are not stupid. They see what goes on. They can see a "holier than thou" city council putting forth a ridiculous law on the people. They see the "Bag Ban Zombies" showing up with bags tied all over their bodies, and signs stating how bad and evil plastic bags are intimidating anyone who dares to stand up for reason. And they know the city council members have already made up their mind no matter what people say or propose as alternatives. Citizen voices who disagree are ignored. 
    We have seen numerous email responses from city council members who state that they "carefully considered" the bag ban before making a decision, realize that "some" people may not agree with it, but then decided to do it because it was the right thing to do." They then go on to state the typical non-sense illogical arguments that prove that they really didn't think things through, or even question the statistics that were presented to them.
    This is a mockery of the city council process, which leaves the citizens with just one choice: To forcefully collect enough signatures to force the ordinance to a vote by the people to get it overturned. The city council knows that most people will not expend enough energy and money to go through the process, so they win by default. The silent majority sits at home and stews under their new laws, distrusting the city council and wondering what it is they will do next to impact their lives in some other meaningless manner.

  23. No studies have ever shown that bag bans significantly improve the environment
    San Francisco did a study years after their plastic bag ban was put into effect, and it showed NO improvement in the amount of plastic bags that littered the streets and streams. There has been no study reviewing plastic bag bans that shows any positive improvements that would be significant enough to justify the confusion, cost, and pain that bag bans have forced onto the people.
    San Jose did a study 1 year after the bag ban and proclaimed success because their people cleaned up less plastic grocery bags. Yet they ignore the fact that those statistics only show that less bags were cleaned up, NOT the number of bags that made it past the cleanup efforts. Thus, they only show that city workers had to work a little less hard. So when do the people of the city get a tax break for the savings of the supposed millions of dollars in cleanup? Don't hold your breath.

  24. Bag bans are being put into place to control people, not to actually accomplish anything
    This gets to the heart of the issue: Bag bans are meant to control people and their attitudes. It does not matter if there are NO improvements to the environment. It does not matter that plastic bags are an incredibly small part of a larger problem. It doesn't even matter that they step on people's liberties and freedoms and hurt businesses. The only thing that matters is that they were able to control people's behavior and force them to adopt what they consider to be a "green" lifestyle.
    And it is only the beginning. They already have a full list of other items on their target list!

  25. Bag bans hurt people taking public transportation, walking, or bicycling the most
    Just how is someone who takes public transportation, walks, or bicycles supposed to deal with the bag bans? Are they supposed to constantly carry around reusable bags just in case they go shopping? Bag bans discourage people from taking public transportation, as they are penalized by having to carry bags or buy bags. Some bag bans make matters worse by only allowing the user to buy paper bags. How many paper bags can a person actually carry? Only two!

  26. A vocal minority is taking away the rights of the majority
    Standing in front of any grocery store watching shoppers shows about 80% - 90% of the people use plastic bags. That means the proponents of bag bans MUST be only 10% - 20% of the population. (Or else they are just big hypocrites!). How is it that about 90% of the people vote daily on their choice of bags, yet they are stripped of that choice by just 10% of the people? It is quite evident why the city councils never puts these to a vote!