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Environmentalists Wrong Again — This Time Plastic Bags

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Here we go again. After years of protests, fierce lobbying and millions of dollars spent by environmental groups, the London Times debunks the plastic bag hysteria in an article: “Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain“.

BantheBagThe widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.

This figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.

Fifteen years later in 2002, when the Australian Government commissioned a report into the effects of plastic bags, its authors misquoted the Newfoundland study, mistakenly attributing the deaths to “plastic bags”.

The figure was latched on to by conservationists as proof that the bags were killers. For four years the “typo” remained uncorrected. It was only in 2006 that the authors altered the report, replacing “plastic bags” with “plastic debris”. But they admitted: “The actual numbers of animals killed annually by plastic bag litter is nearly impossible to determine.”

Over the last decade many countries have imposed a fee for consumers to ask for “plastic” instead of “paper”. Here in LaLa land, the City of Santa Monica is about to pass an ordinance banning plastic bags entirely.

The deep pocketed environmental group, “Heal the Bay” supports the measure. “This is the farthest-reaching bag ban in the United States, if not the world,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “It’s a bold move by Santa Monica that . . . we hope serves as a model for California and beyond.” Gold said Malibu, Los Angeles and Long Beach were watching Santa Monica’s actions.

San Francisco has banned non-biodegradable bags from large grocery stores and pharmacies. Los Angeles County recently adopted a voluntary program that critics derided as ineffectual.

Last month, the Chinese government announced that a ban would take effect June 1, and Australia is considering a ban.

A program in Ireland that imposed a fee for each plastic carry-out bag has reduced the use of plastic bags by 95% since March 2002.

This attempt at saving the planet is misguided by the fact that more paper bags will be used, resulting in more trees being harvested and more air pollution from the paper mills and of course the trucks hauling the raw materials and finished products to their destinations.

Heal the Bay’s press release on the “Ban the Bag” campaign confirms this; “While paper bags are largely biodegradable and do not foul the marine environment, the bags come with an environmental price tag. Their creation emits global warming gases, pollutes watersheds and requires significant amounts of raw materials.”

Meanwhile in Great Britain, Lord Taverne, the chairman of Sense about Science, said: “The Government is irresponsible to jump on a bandwagon that has no base in scientific evidence. This is one of many examples where you get bad science leading to bad decisions which are counter-productive. Attacking plastic bags makes people feel good but it doesn’t achieve anything.”

Posted: 1700PT 03/08/08


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Poncho Gutierrez permalink
    Friday, July 25, 2008 6:08 am

    How come you do not consider other alternatives to paper bags? Namely re-usable bags made of fabrics like cotton or hemp…

    True, plastic bags don’t make baby seals choke to death. But they do get degraded into fouler chemicals and eaten by all kinds of animals who, obviously, cannot digest them. Toxic waste filters into OUR food this way. Also, animals’ digestive systems get packed with this stuff and they cannot digest “real” food.

    You do not need to re-interpret any Cannuk studies to understand how wrong that is.

    Our throw away culture cannot thrive for much longer. Small steps like these make a huge difference.

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