Environmental Leader on the Hidden Costs of Reusable Bags

Fear the bag monster, not the bacteria

We love Environmental Leader and regularly encourage our readers to vist them as an additional source of excellent sustainable business news. But we’re not sure what they were thinking today with this item on how Plastic Bag Bans ‘Present Hidden Environmental, Economic Costs’

The article from the point of view of “conservative think tank” National Center for Policy Analysis, cites that same old study from the American Chemistry Council which found that reusable bags contain “dangerous levels of bacteria.” Of course, that bacteria is the same kind found on pretty much every surface and fabric, and it is killed with simple soap and water. No matter. Sadly, the threat of MRSA, no matter how distant, is enough to deter many from making the environmentally responsible choice.

In case the threat of dangerous microbes isn’t enough to deter your from packing your own bag, the study presents a new mystery danger: job loss!

That’s right.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that curbs on plastic bags has affected commerce in the cities where [bag bans] have been enacted, according to a column by NCPA senior fellow H. Sterling Burnett on Waste & Recycling news’ web site.

In the current economic conditions the use of plastic bags could save U.S. jobs, according to Burnett.

Of course, the article doesn’t get into how, exactly.

When you click through to the study the article was based on, the study author elaborates:

The largest manufacturer of reusable bags is China, while thousands of U.S. workers are employed manufacturing plastic bags in the U.S.

There’s no citation for that assertion, but even if it were true, it would be easy enough to convert those factories to reusable bag producers.

There may be hidden environmental and economic costs, but pretty much everything has some of those.

Although this article is from someone else’s point of view, we wonder where Environmental Leader’s editorial voice went.

We welcome your thoughts!

[Image credit: Heal the Bay, Flickr]

Jen Boynton

Jen is editor in chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and lives in Oakland with her husband and normally happy baby. 
Hit her up at on twitter @jenboynton to discuss diapering strategies or sustainability reporting methodology.