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

China's biggest fuel tank maker getting a US foothold

April 23, 2014 4:41 pm ET

The majority owner of China's biggest fuel tank maker is expanding its global automotive footprint with the acquisition of the fuel tank unit of...    More

Image

China's Shide Group, BASF unveil 'revolutionary' all-plastic window profile

April 23, 2014 9:10 pm ET

SHANGHAI — The PVC window profile market in Asia is expected to increase four-fold by 2025, and Chinese building products maker Dalian Shide...    More

Worker dies in fall at Formosa Texas plant

April 23, 2014 4:04 pm ET

A subcontractor died April 22 after falling 25 feet during routine cleaning operations at a Formosa Plastics Corp. USA facility in Point Comfort,...    More

Image

Milliken expanding SC plant for additional PP clarifying agent capacity

April 23, 2014 3:42 pm ET

American chemical company Milliken & Co. has announced plans for a major expansion in capacity for its Millad NX8000 clarifying agent for...    More

Image

CPM Extrusion, ECON launch new line of underwater pelletizers

April 23, 2014 11:25 am ET

CPM Extrusion Group and ECON GmbH unveiled their brand new EUPC line of underwater pelletizers today at ChinaPlas held in Shanghai, China.    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

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

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events