NTF issue paper: ccwatch69.doc. 4-18/4-19.

The effort to ban plastic bags is a recent radical ecological fad, promoted by liberal local and state politicians urged on by radical environmentalists. Proponents base claims on emotion and debunked facts, believing that their theories justify denying consumers access to clean, safe, convenient, and recyclable plastic bags. Bag bans base on lies, distortions, and myths. Alarmists blame bags for mass plastic pollution. Promoters of bag bans focus on one small fractional use of plastic and forcefully try to dissuade retailers from supplying a popular plastic bag to customers. Misguided city council members press this effort onto their constituents but notably refrain from allowing a public vote. In several cities, councils held public hearings and totally ignored testimony from consumers and businesses and instead listened to an emotional few who warn of dire consequences. Cowed city councils that vote for bans inconvenience consumers, risk public health, and cause business losses, feeling satisfied while forcing everyone to bend to their ecological demands. There exists a long list of reasons why the City of Omaha should NOT impose a plastic bag ban.

. Omaha City Councilmen Pete Festersen and Ben Gray, joined by eco-radical activists, want the city to force grocery stores and small retailers to prohibit plastic shopping bags used at checkout.

. Liberals whine that plastic bags clog landfills and degrade too slowly. Perhaps shocking to eco-radicals, paper bags cause more landfill waste than plastic bags and degrade very slowly because of compaction. Plastic bags do not decompose in landfills, so they do not produce greenhouse gases during decomposition like paper bags. Also, shoppers throw away many more heavy-duty reusable bags and paper bags.

. Reusable bags serve as a host for many filthy bacteria, particularly E-coli bacteria, which can cause food- borne sicknesses, bloody diarrhea, and kidney failure. Most consumers admitted to researchers that they normally do not wash their reusable bags. An American Chemistry Council-funded study at the U. of Arizona examined 84 reusable bags for coliform bacteria, including E-coli and salmonella, noting that consumers had washed none of these bags, that most had contained meat products not isolated by a form of plastic or separation from bag surfaces. The authors found that about 50% of the bags harbored a variety of coliform. Fabric bags are useful to transport dry foods but quick to absorb messes, leading to undesirable odors and potential for bacterial growth. Reusable bags infrequently if ever washed and often used for other purposes, thus spreading contamination. These bags must undergo washing and sanitizing on a regular basis, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Customers who bring filthy fabric bags into grocery stores may spread bacteria and communicable diseases among exposed grocery products, e.g., fruits. Checkers who bag our groceries conceivably could transfer vile bacteria onto our groceries. Researchers found that emergency room admissions related to these bacteria spiked in San Francisco, after it adopted its ban in 2007.
Evidence proves plastic bags less likely to become contaminated than paper or cloth alternatives (Kenneth P. Green and Elizabeth DeMeo, American Enterprise Institute). Plastic bags are hygienic, cheap, and preserve foods that otherwise would spoil.

. Grocers and other business owners would deal with angry customers complaining about a plastic bag ban. A ban would reduce the amount of money spent in the banned area, while sales increased in stores outside the area (National Center for Policy Analysis, 2015). Shoppers could travel to stores outside Omaha to purchase the same items and avoid the ban. Those who forget to bring their fabric bags may buy less. Local ban ordinances create a patchwork of regulations that increase costs and make it difficult for chains and franchises to comply with different requirements across a state. Many stores already promote recycling and encourage reuse of paper bags. Checkers would spend additional time trying to pack everything into reusable bags. Retailers, who find plastic bags easy to store and transport, simple to open and fill, would face a storage problem. A stack of 1,000 plastic bags is about 4 inches. A stack of 1,000 paper bags extends about 4 feet. If the Omaha ban passes, businesses must handle additional bureaucratic paperwork and merely will pass along added costs to consumers.

. A ban only on grocers and a few other retailers will give other businesses that use plastic bags an unfair advantage. Small and family-owned businesses would see a competitive disadvantage. Newspaper deliveries, bakery, and restaurant food in plastic not banned. The poor rely more on convenient plastic bags, because they shop at smaller stores and buy few items more often. Councilman Festersen wants the city to supply fabric bags for the poor, a redistribution of wealth.

. A recent study by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that plastic bag restrictions cost jobs. The NCPA surveyed store managers in Los Angeles County where a ban of thin-film bags took effect in July, 2011, to verify a ban impact on revenues and employment. Workers in the plastic bag industry or bag recycling lost jobs. “In the United States, more than 30,000 Americans are employed by the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry,” says Mark Daniels, Chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance. “Bag bans and taxes put these jobs at risk at a time when we should be supporting the creation of new ones.” Bag ban proponents promise that a ban would encourage industry to “retool” and “retrain” workers to make a different product but provide no evidence as proof.

. Festersen offers no measurement or tracking system to determine the ecological impact of his proposed ban. Paper bags consume more energy to produce and because bulkier generate more waste and greenhouse gases. Paper production is a heavily air polluting industry. Paper weighs more, costs more to manufacture and transport, and seldom reused. Plastic carryout bags constitute less than 1% of all litter and will not result in an appreciable reduction in litter if banned. A study by the Environmental Agency of England demonstrated that a consumer must reuse a cotton shopping bag 173 times, before it is as environmentally friendly as a plastic bag. Producing the cotton for these bags generates 300 times the amount of water pollution compared to plastic bag production and uses more energy to produce. Plastic bags manufactured at factories often more environmentally friendly to produce than their biodegradable plastic or paper alternatives. Their processing uses less water and requires fewer chemicals. Plastic has half the carbon footprint of cotton and paper bags. Companies can recycle tens of millions pounds of plastic bags. The rate of plastic bag recycling increases each year with help from the American plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industries and thousands of recycling drop-off locations across the country. 90% of people reuse their plastic bags. Ban proponents wrongly claim that consumers use plastic bags only once, while the industry proves that many use them as garbage bags, diaper disposers, lunch carriers, plant protection in winter, or dog poop collectors. This measure is disruptive to recycling systems already in place. Companies use decking materials containing recycled plastic bags to rebuild sea boardwalks.  If a survey in future years finds that plastic bag litter has not decreased, do not expect Festersen to urge repeal of his ordinance.

. Festersen wants to stop businesses from offering a free product to customers and stop customers from receiving a free service that we have enjoyed, unwarranted government intrusion. We might expect next from such a micromanager of our daily lives an effort to ban styrofoam cups, straws, napkins, plastic water bottles, or plastic garbage bags. Festersen decries plastic bag litter, yet he seeks to penalize all consumers for the poor behavior of a few litterbugs. Bag bans intend to control people and their attitudes. No matter if there is NO improvement to the environment. No matter that plastic bags are a tiny part of a larger problem. No matter that freedoms and small businesses trod upon. Only that Festersen can control citizen behavior and force residents to adopt what he considers a “green” lifestyle whether they like it or not, condescending to citizens he believes not intelligent enough to make our own decisions. A ban meddles with the free market. Note that American companies manufacture plastic bags; most paper bags come from Asia.

. The leftist Sierra Club favors the ban. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the American City County Exchange, American Chemistry Council, NE Grocery Industry Association, NE Retail Association, Mayor Jean Stothert, Council Member Brinker Harding, and conservatives oppose it. Omahans already have voted on this issue by their shopping habits; most wish to use plastic bags.

. Cities should prompt private entities to educate citizens about the hazards of littering and plastic bags fouling the landscape and storm sewers. Enforce anti-littering ordinances. Publicize recycling and reuse.

. Fight back against the Festersen misinformation and help expose the truth about plastic bag bans. Fight for consumer rights and choice against eco-radicals who seek to micromanage our daily lives to conform to their dictates, who seek to impose their value system on those who disagree. Perhaps a private entity could commission a poll to verify how many citizens support a ban. Contact your city council members to ignore peer pressure from liberal cities that already have implemented a ban. Explain to council members the many reasons why a ban makes no sense and the immense inconvenience it causes businesses and citizens. Email netaxpayers@gmail.com for council contact information and to join the NE Taxpayers for Freedom City Watch Project.


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