A version of this article was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on May 19, 2012.
By Boulder’s standard of “zero waste,” the City Council’s plan to restrict plastic bag use is garbage. Regardless, such restrictions are foul rubbish. They empower bag bullies to self-righteously trash our liberties.
Plastic bags contribute just 0.4 percent of Boulder County’s municipal solid waste, says a recent Waste Composition Study. By weight, there’s more than ten times as much recyclable plastic, “clean dimensional lumber,” and items accepted at the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials. Instead of shaking down shoppers, bag banners should wade through dumps to extract these items for reuse or recycling.
Bag restrictions stifle reuse and recycling trends. Consumers reuse plastic grocery bags at home, and restrictions increase sales of thicker, single-use plastic bags. Plastic bag recycling has increased by 50% since 2005, yielding durable plastic and lumber products,reports Moore Recycling Associates. RecycleYourPlasticBag.com lists local places to recycle bags. The City Council should add its meetings to this list.
Meanwhile, durable bags meant for reuse “are seldom if ever washed” and “almost all” contain bacteria, concludes a Loma Linda University study. Just last week MSNBC reported that one such bag spread “nasty … norovirus infections” to a youth soccer team.
Comparing various bag types, the British Environment Agency found that plastic bags had the lowest “environmental impact,” which is most determined by resources required for manufacturing, rather than transport and disposal.
Regardless of which bag is best, retailers have a right to distribute bags, and customers have a right to discard them through voluntary means. Boulder City Council, stop your bag bullying.
If you say government authorities can justly restrict voluntary exchange of a plastic bag, then you’re conceding that can justly restrict any other type of voluntary exchange. You can no longer you can no longer oppose any government action by arguing that it violates people’s right to liberty.
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