The Feb. 8 issue of Plastics News includes an editorial against legislative bans and taxes on plastic bags. [I'm the author, the column is headlined "Do you need a bag? Yeah, make it plastic." And, as usual, the cartoon from Rich Williams is brilliant.] But Plastics News isn't alone in editorializing against bag bans this week. The Gazette Times in Corvallis, Ore., has a column headlined "Trust market to kill plastic bag use." Sure, that headline doesn't scream "pro-plastic." But the columns have some parallels. Both criticize legislative efforts to ban or tax plastic bags. The Corvallis column is aimed at a proposal from two Oregon legislators -- Portland Democrat Mark Hass and Central Point Republican Jason Atkinson -- that would ban plastic bags.
Hass told the Oregonian newspaper that plastic bags contribute to litter, are hard to recycle, hurt marine life and are made from fossil fuels. That's all true. It also is true, however, that the bags can be recycled. (It's also true, for what it's worth, that 85 percent of the plastic bags used in the United States are made in this country, and that some 4,000 Americans are directly employed in their manufacture.) The best approach here, we believe, is to continue with efforts to persuade consumers to move to reusable bags. We trust that the market will follow consumer preference. We don't need to use a heavy-handed approach such as a ban or a surcharge on the plastic bags. That's a pain for consumers -- and it could potentially hurt retailers, who frankly don't need any additional worry right now.I like the approach -- encouraging the public to stop being wasteful, without resorting to passing a law to require it. It echoes my column, where I wrote that bag taxes and bans aren't the answer, but I don't object to non-legislative efforts to get people to cut down on bag consumption.