Banning Plastic Bags Takes Away Consumers Choice

Of course, the idea is to encourage consumers to bring reusable canvas totes to the store instead of using paper—in Shropshire's case by mailing 15,000 of them to his constituents. But it's not the hemp bags' lack of availability that makes them unpopular—IKEA sells them for

59 cents. Consumers just aren't convinced that the personal and environmental benefits of using them are worth the inconvenience of carrying ten canvas sacks for the week's groceries. If they were, a ban wouldn't be necessary.

So the likely upshot of banning plastic is an increase in the use of paper bags, which cost more energy to produce and take up more space than plastic. Supposedly, paper is better anyway, because it has a higher recycling rate than plastic—around 20 percent versus a rather dismal one percent. But the comparison is not entirely apt: The country currently uses only 7 billion paper sacks per year, compared to 100 billion plastic bags. And paper has an organic, green image, making its uses more likely to be the recycling type. When the average consumer, no more or less

An environmental technician sorts through paper and biodegradable plastic bags in a landfill so that their biodegradable characteristics can be compared.

informed than she was yesterday, finds her most convenient shopping option banned she's unlikely to start recycling soggy paper sacks.

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