TimesUK: Plastic Bags are Not a Problem?

plastico33993.jpegHere’s something to debunk for the weekend. Alexi Mostrous from the Times suggests that there is no scientific evidence that plastic bags cause any of the myriad problems they are blamed for. As a result, he suggest that banning plastic bags is irrational and therefore a bad idea. Specifically, he says:

The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.

The article continues by stating that, indeed, many other forms of plastic, especially fishing gear, are a far bigger problem in terms of causing the death of marine mammals and other sea creatures. If this is true, then indeed, such claims should not be the basis of legislation to ban bags or reduce their use.
But the article fails to suggest that there are dozens of other reasons to ban plastic bags: They use too much petroleum, they poorly biodegrade and may harm groundwater, they are a major source of litter, they add hidden costs to a trip to the grocery store… and they’re wasteful. Billions of plastic bags buried in landfills and blowing around the streets can’t be a good thing right? Do we require an in-depth scientific study to prove these things?
Many will say no, this is just common sense, but to give this article the benefit of the doubt, what’s your response? I take a philosophical point of view that waste, simply put, is bad. Therefore providing incentives for people to use reusable bags from non-intensive natural materials would be a good thing, given the nature of most plastic bags these days. But can anyone come up with a harder, more scientific argument?
Just to throw some salt into the mix, the article also cites a 1968 study that states “A 1968 study of albatross carcasses found that 90 per cent contained some form of plastic but only two birds had ingested part of a plastic bag.”
Plastic bags consumption in 1968 was trivial compared to what it is today and mentioning this study is off base as the mishandling of data the author point out among those striving to ban bags. It certainly suggests he has an agenda.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.