Wisconsin is the newest state to debate a ban on plastic grocery bags, according to this story from the Madison, Wis., The Capital Times. The bill was introduced by two Democratic state legislators, Mark Pocan, a represenative from Madison, and Bob Jauch, a senator from Poplar. Like some other bag-ban proposals around the county, their bill would ban conventional plastic bags, but allow biodegradable bags. The story quotes Brandon Scholz of the Wisconsin Grocers Association saying that biodegradable bags are too expensive, and that consumers have not been pushing for a ban. He also noted that many retailers collect plastic bags for recycling. "You're finding more and more grocery stores providing receptacles for their customers to bring the bags back," he said. "And there is a market for those bags." Pocan, one of the bill sponsors, made one point in the story that is a more than a bit simplistic. The story attributes this information to him:
... because plastic bags are made with petroleum, they increase the United States' reliance on foreign crude oil, Pocan said. Biodegradable bags, in contrast, are made with the starch from corn and other agricultural products.In North America, most polyethylene is made from natural gas, not oil. And agricultural products may come from sunshine and rainbows, but it takes a lot of energy to harvest the crops and turn them into starch-based resins -- by some measures, more energy than is used to make conventional plastics.