Are Bag Bans The Best Solution to The Plastic Bag Problem? Why Not Recycle?
The Debate Over Plastic Bags Continues…Are Bans and Fees The Best Solution?
In the United States over the last few years, there has been an influx in the debate over regulating disposable plastic bags through fees and bans. Through all of the debate, some of these efforts have been very successful and others have failed. The question becomes, are bag bans the best solution to the plastic bag problem? In order to determine this answer we need to understand the problem.
What Is So Appealing About Bag Bans?
Single-use plastic bag are convenient because they are lightweight and durable. These are great characteristics for carrying goods home from the store, but not so great when it comes to the long term impact on the environment and wildlife. Disposable plastic bags are recyclable but unfortunately they are seldom recycled. It is much more likely that plastic bags will be tossed in landfills where they will sit forever since they are not biodegradable.
It is also very likely that disposable plastic bags will become litter as they can be picked up by the wind and carried out of trash cans, recycling bins or even landfills. Once they are lifted up and away they can become tangled in trees and shrubs or set down in water and when this happens, the plastic bags damage ecosystems, and the resulting harm puts animals and their habitats at risk.
For all of these reasons there are a lot of people who want to do away with, or at least severely limit, the use of disposable plastic bags. Eliminating plastic bags will eliminate the problems these bags cause.
Are Bag Bans the Best Solution to the Plastic Bag Problem?
Bag bans and fees make sense in terms of preventing problems at the source before they even have a chance to become a problem. Disposable plastic bags are a huge problem for marine animals since when submerged, plastic bags can look like jellyfish or other marine animals and they may be mistaken for a legitimate food source and eaten. For this reason, bans and proposals to implement bans are very common in coastal areas; although in the past year the movement to ban bags has picked up some major momentum in areas not near an ocean.
Plastic bag manufacturers are against bag bans and fees for obvious reasons. In many instances retailers are against legislation around bags since these laws require stores to train and prepare their staff to uphold the measures, and this adds extra work for the staff. A lot of people feel increased efforts to recycle plastic bags in the best solution. People will still have the convenience of plastic bags, namely durability and lightweight to carry, but if recycled there are none of the negative consequences, like environmental harm and animal fatalities.
Looking to Solve the Bag Problem By Recycling
In theory, recycling IS the best solution but unfortunately recycling rates are low. It is estimated that only about 10 percent of plastic bags are recycled. A major advantage of recycling plastic is that there is a limitless amount of times plastic can be recycled. Some materials can only be recycled a set number of times, but plastic is no such material.
A drawback of recycling plastic bags is that not all facilities accept these bags. Most curbside recycling programs do not accept plastic bags. Many retailers collect plastic bags for recycling, but this is not widely known so it is not very effective. The actual recycling process is cumbersome since these thin bags often become tangled in the equipment and slow down or even stop the process. Recycling is effective in theory, but in practice recycling is just not cutting it. If there was a way to dramatically increase recycling rates and improve the process it would be a very viable solution, but the way things stand now recycling is not enough of a solution.
Learn More…Be a Part of The Solution
Do you want to learn more about the bag ban movement? Check out our map. We track single-use plastic bag bans and fees, as well as efforts that failed to pass to show the movement as a whole. If you know of a location not on our map please leave a comment and let us know!