Do you need a bag? Yeah, make it plastic

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: February 5, 2010 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics End Markets, Sustainability, Materials, Suppliers

It’s legislative season in most U.S. state capitals, so we’re starting to see a flurry of bills being proposed to tax or ban plastic bags.

From Florida to Oregon, bag restrictions are on the agenda. Legislators who are looking for new sources of revenue, or trying to deal with litter problems, or perhaps just trying to get their names in the paper, are proposing a variety of bills.

First, let’s make clear that bans and taxes are a bad idea.

Replacing polyethylene bags with paper or degradable polymers, as called for in some proposals, implies that other materials are environmentally preferable to plastics. That’s a matter of opinion, not fact, and it’s not clear that legislators are qualified to make that decision. No doubt emotion and factors other than logic will play a role if politicians make decisions on which kinds of packaging get preferential treatment.

(For proof, check out Brownsville, Texas, which recently became the 12th U.S. city to ban single-use plastic bags. I’m sure it’s a total coincidence that Brownsville is home to a paper bag factory that employs 120.)

On top of that, citizens everywhere should object to any plan to place new taxes on products that the majority of people use regularly. Taxes are necessary, but bag taxes are regressive and anti-business.

Given the negatives of bag taxes, it is good news that California legislators recently killed two bills that would have placed a 25-cent tax on single-use plastic and paper carryout bags. Legislators decided that the costs of setting up a system to impose the fee — estimated at $300,000 — and the annual enforcement cost of $1 million were not worth the effort, given the state’s budget crisis.

But the demise of the two bills in California does not mean proposals to tax or ban bags won’t resurface in the state Legislature or in individual cities. So bag makers and their suppliers need to remain committed to dealing with sustainability issues like litter and marine debris.

That means continuing to raise the profile of bag recycling efforts, and staying committed to using more recycled content in bags. Clearly, defeating legislative efforts to ban and tax bags is only winning part of the battle.

All that said, I don’t object to non-legislative efforts to get people to cut down on bag consumption. A growing number of retailers are on that bandwagon. Ikea and Whole Foods Market no longer distribute single-use plastic bags. CVS/pharmacy and Target have customer incentive programs designed to reduce plastic bag use. Wal-Mart has an ambitious goal to reduce bag use, and it’s trying a number of approaches to see which works best. Three Wal-Mart stores in California recently launched a pilot program in which no single-use plastic bags will be available for shoppers.

In the past 20 years, shoppers have gotten used to checkout clerks asking, “Paper or plastic?” But with retailers trying to cut down on plastic bag usage, consumers should get used to a new phrase at the cash register: “Do you need a bag?”

 Loepp is managing editor of  Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”


Comments

Do you need a bag? Yeah, make it plastic

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: February 5, 2010 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Inteplast expands in corrugated sheet with Coroplast deal

August 21, 2014 5:28 pm ET

Packaging major Inteplast Group has acquired its main competitor in corrugated plastic sheet, Coroplast Inc. Inteplast gets corrugated sheet plants...    More

Image

Non-recyclable items gumming up the works at recycling centers

August 21, 2014 3:46 pm ET

The influx of all sorts of unacceptable items at recycling centers has gotten to the point that Charlotte, N.C.-based ReCommunity is trying to bring...    More

Image

Investment firm specializes in emerging polymer firms in Ohio

August 21, 2014 3:20 pm ET

A plastics market veteran is working with an investment firm and a research foundation to help commercialize polymer technology in the Buckeye State.    More

Image

Bayer, SCAC partner on water reuse project

August 21, 2014 12:48 pm ET

Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) and Shanghai Chlor-Alkali Chemical Co. Ltd. (SCAC) have entered into a preliminary agreement for the reuse of waste water ...    More

Image

Report predicts growth for flexible packaging

August 21, 2014 12:34 pm ET

Flexible packaging in the United States grew last year and is expected to continue to grow this year, according to a new report by the Flexible Packag...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events