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 Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

4 responses

  1. This seems a bit extreme.  I have been using canvas bags for years now and never had problems or washed them.  Bacteria is everywhere anyway and without it life as we know it would not exist.  The obsession with sterilizing everything out of existence is absurd.  Super bacteria is created.  As far as the jobs go.  What a laugh that is.  Everything these days is made in China.  That’s a different issue that should not be associated with this in any way.  Come on, 50 billion plastic bags a year form the US and how many are recycled.  It oil based, people.  It’s probably just more American whining about having to carry a bag with you. “I’m American, I can’t worry about things like that.”  This stuff drives me crazy.  Plastic bags are a environmental problem.  Both in creating them and disposing of them. 

    Use hemp based material and allow us to grow it and that will create more than enough jobs.

  2.  Hello Jen,
    The title of the article is a bit misleading and if readers, don’t actually read the entire article they may think 3P is not in support of reusable bags!  I am developing a Capstone model working to incentivize consumers to utilize reusables more, such a shame we have naysayers out there on such an easy subject.  Arrgghh. 

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