Jeff Stier, associate director of the American Council on Science and Health, has an amusing op-ed column in the New York Post about an unexpected consequence of Whole Foods Market dropping plastic bags: Cockroaches prefer paper bags, which Stier said would contribute to the city's "asthma epidemic."
Entymologists, including Coby Schal of North Carolina State University, have observed that cockroaches prefer paper to plastic. "They really like to live in the creases found in paper bags," said Schal, the nation's top expert on cockroaches. Many cockroach species chew into paper bags to lay their eggs - something they don't do with plastic. This is a problem beyond just the yuck factor. Darryl Zeldin, a senior scientist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, says: "Cockroaches significantly increase asthma symptoms in allergic individuals. And while a third of inner-city residents are cockroach-sensitive, sensitivity to cockroach exposure is widespread in our nation - not just in the inner cities." If Whole Foods' "green" move starts a trend among food stores, it may contribute to New York's asthma epidemic. It gets worse. The move flies in the face of the enviro mantra to "reduce, reuse and recycle" - in that order. Almost everyone keeps a stash of plastic bags. We reuse them to line garbage cans, bring lunch to work and clean up after the dog - try doing that with paper. Plastic bags are easier to reuse and more efficient to recycle than paper. In fact, starting this summer, New York City will require large stores to offer shoppers recycling bins. (Maybe the city's overbearing emphasis on public health resulted in something positive, this time.) That makes a lot more environmental sense than San Francisco's governmental greenwash: an outright plastic-bag ban. If you are worried about the environment, reusing plastic bags is a better choice than paper bags, which rarely get reused.Stier goes on to say that too many people "mindlessly follow green initiatives and bask in how good it feels -- without recognizing the unintended consequences." He gave the example of the Penn and Teller video in which hundreds of people sign a petition to ban water -- they call it dihydrogen monoxide -- because it is a "chemical found in reservoirs and lakes" and used in pesticides and nuclear energy that is finding its way into grocery stores and baby food.