When you think about it, seeing momentum building for plastic bag bans in Massachusetts is kind of ironic. After all, the Bay State historically is a cradle of the U.S. plastics industry. The Boston Globe took note of that irony on Sunday with a pretty good feature story that put the bag banning trend into perspective. The full headline gives you an idea right off that bat that this is a meaty story: "The plastic bag wars: Light, sturdy, amazingly cheap--and banned. How the humble sack became a victim of its own success." Among others, the story quotes Robert Malloy of UMass Lowell; Mark Steele, CEO of Gloucester Engineering, a company that designed some of the earliest plastic-bag-making machines in the 1960s; and Diana Twede, a professor at the School of Packaging at Michigan State University. Here's an excerpt with some good perspective from those experts:
It's perfectly true, as people in the plastics industry remind us, that plastic bags are reusable, recyclable, and take up very little space. But it's also true that they're so cheap, and so profuse -- think of buying a toothbrush and watching as the cashier double-bags it -- that we don't really treat them as objects we need to think about. "If my household is any indication, probably about 10 percent of them get reused at most," said Twede. "It's too bad more of them aren't recycled.... But they're so cheap and so thin that it feels like they're not worth recycling." Or, as Robert Malloy of UMass Lowell put it, "They're a problem because people can afford to throw them away."I'm not sure is Twede's household is a good indicator. We have three dogs, so we reuse nearly 100 percent of our bags. Actually more than that, since we tend to end up with other people's bags, too! If we didn't reuse all those bags, I'm sure we'd recycle them. The story has also generated a decent number of reader comments. Make sure to check them out for a full taste of the bag banning debate.