It is no surprise that The New York Times recently editorialized in favor of the plastic bag ban in Westport, Conn. After all, we noted back in September that Westport resident David Pogue, technology columnist for the Times, spoke in favor of the ban at a public meeting and told the crowd: “...if you pass it, I'll write about it ....” It looks like he kept his promise. Here's an excerpt from the newspaper's recent editorial on the topic:
Americans use and dispose of at least 100 billion bags every year. Although the plastics industry points out that plastic grocery bags are made more from natural gas than petroleum, natural gas is not a renewable resource and contributes to global warming. And about only 5 percent of all plastic bags are recycled nationwide. The rest end up in the trash, hanging in trees or floating in water where they menace marine life. There are other possible remedies, including a constructive idea that has taken hold in Ireland. In 2002, Ireland became the first country in the world to impose a tax on plastic bags. Use of the bags dropped by 90 percent, and proceeds from the tax went to environmental causes. If Ireland is any guide, tax laws may have greater impact on human behavior than recycling laws. Tax law could also be written to apply to an entire state, thus eliminating the need for town-by-town bans.Today the Times' Web site has publised two letters to the editor in response to that editorial -- including one opposed to bag taxes. The counterpoint comes from Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council. Here's what he has to say:
We all want a cleaner environment, and based on the facts, your editorial misses the mark. Bans and taxes penalize consumers and are not effective at preventing litter or enhancing our environment. Instead, consumers buy new bags to replace the grocery bags, because 92 percent of consumers reuse plastic grocery bags for a variety of household purposes. Ireland's tax actually led to a 400 percent increase in the purchase of other types of plastic bags. Moreover, plastic-bag bans generally increase demand for paper bags, increase energy use by 70 percent and double greenhouse gas emissions. The more environmentally sustainable solution is to promote recycling. Plastic bag and film recycling grew 24 percent in 2006, and is being embraced from coast to coast, from California to New York City and Rhode Island. Plastics are a valuable resource -- too valuable to waste -- and should be recycled. Let's work together to promote recycling.I think Dooley's response was on target. Recycling is the solution, and ACC (as well as communities and retailers) need to play a role. But, obviously, there's a lot more to be said on the topic. What other points should he have made?