Here’s a headline that caught my eye: “Plastic Bag Bans Are actually terrible for the Environment and make us Sicker”. I thought, whoa, this I have to read about. So I did. In essence, the authors of the article, quoting university scientists, state that far from causing environmental harm, the main use of plastic bags is to make the environment cleaner and less hazardous for humans. Dog walkers use them to clean the environment of pet waste.
Plastic grocery bags are an excellent way to protect people from bacteria in the environment because they are disposable. By contrast, reusable bags can pose a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E.coli. And landfills aren’t exactly being filled by plastic bags. In the U.S. they account for 0.28% of solid waste by weight. Nevertheless, bag ban advocates insist plastic bags are environmentally harmful and must be outlawed to fight climate change. A plastic bag ban, enthusiastically endorsed by federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, is in effect as of this month in Montreal with heavy fines hovering over businesses that continue to use them. A ban is also set to take effect in Victoria later this year and Manitoba’s provincial government along with politicians in other cities are considering a ban as well. I haven’t heard if Saskatoon is among them but if so, I hope we look long and hard at both sides of the argument and go with sound policy over symbolism. Politicians have no way of measuring the cost of ill-conceived bans in terms of the inconvenience they cause consumers and businesses to suffer.