A couple of items related to product bans caught my eye today, because both highlight some interesting logical arguments. First, the Los Angeles Daily News posted an editorial in favor of plastic bag bans. The column, "Plastic bag ban proposal should be carried out with OK of the public," argues that plastic bag bans are OK because bags carry hidden costs to society. "For single-use bags, it is a double whammy: the pass-through cost from the retailers, as well as the cost of dealing with billions of discarded plastic bags in our landfills, sewers, gutters, parks, trees, rivers, beaches and oceans. We all pay for the estimated 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion (yes, billion) single-use plastic bags and 400 million paper bags used each year in the city, whether we know it or not," the column says. I wonder about the accuracy of an estimate with such a wide range -- 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion. But that's not my problem with the column. Take a look at this part:
The most pervasive argument against the ban of single-use bags is that doing so kills jobs at companies that produce plastic bags. That doesn't make sense when you consider reusable bags are often made from plastic. And shoppers won't stop needing bags to carry their purchases, though it's true they won't need as many. In fact, some forward-thinking companies have already jumped on the opportunity to make reusable bags, creating jobs that didn't exist before. That includes the Van Nuys-based company, Green Bag America, which makes private-label reusable shopping bags for retailers.So it's OK to kill jobs at companies that make one kind of plastic bags because there are other companies making other bags willing to step in and create jobs "that didn't exist before"? That's a pretty big leap in logic. My other example comes from The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, which did a lengthy feature story on college campuses that are banning sales of single-serve water bottles. The story, "Bottled water ban possible in future of Lakeland, Kent State and Lake Erie College," highlights the situation at some local schools, noting that at least nine colleges across the country have banned sales of bottled water. My problem here is the focus on bottled water. I don't have concerns about drinking water from public fountains, I do it almost every day. But I know many people avoid drinking fountains -- some for health and safety reasons, some for taste. If colleges ban bottled water, don't they end up encouraging people to buy less healthy alternative drinks? That's not their aim, but it's a logical result. And aren't college campuses prime spots for recycling empty bottles? I don't have a problem with policies that encourage people to use less stuff. That includes giving out fewer single-use bags at stores, and encouraging customers to use reusable bags, or to reuse and recycle single-use bags. But making the leap from encouraging people to use less stuff and legally requiring it is a pretty big jump.