how a ban on plastic bags can go wrong
Plastic shopping bags were banned in 2013, and it believed environmental benefits would follow.
The calculation is reasonable: Fewer orders
Recycling bags means less waste from municipal landfill sites.
Two years later, an assessment commissioned by the city found that the ban had an unexpected impact --
People are throwing away heavy things now.
Use reusable plastic bags at an unprecedented speed.
It turns out that the good intentions of the city are very vulnerable to the law of supply and demand.
The real situation in Austin may be true elsewhere.
The plastic bag ban is one of the most popular environmental measures in the United States in recent years: since San Francisco became the first in the United StatesS.
The ban will be imposed in more than 100 other US cities in 2007S.
The city has also joined the cause.
Although it is relatively easy to build consensus around these bans, it is much more difficult to achieve significant results.
Part of the problem is--
Despite the world
Save remarks that normally promote and support the ban on plastic bags-
Plastic bags are not a big problem at all.
According to the national data recorded by the EPA in 2013
Use about 0 plastic shopping bags.
28% of the total urban solid waste generated by Americans.
A more sophisticated garbage survey in Fort Worth, Texas (
Assessment Report in Austin)
Found just 0.
12% of the city\'s garbage weight (
From single peopleuse bags.
Nevertheless, supporters of the bag ban rightly point out that weight is not the only measure of environmental impact. Single-
Using plastic bags can cause visual pollution in the landscape ---
South Africans joked that plastic bags are their \"national flower\" because they tend to hang on branches ---
High levels of damage and delay
Technology recycling center(
Reusable bags often do not meet the conditions for recycling, but when they arrive at the center by mistake, they usually wrap up and clog the mobile device. )Single-
Using bags can also cause health hazards to wildlife and livestock. -
On a recent trip to Dubai, I heard a plastic recycler lament that ranch camels often die in plastic bags that are constantly flying in the desert ---
Even if they end up in a landfill, it will take them centuries to break down.
There is no doubt that targeted bans can mitigate these effects by reducing the use of a single ban
Use the bag first.
In Austin, for example, one after
The ban investigation found that
Only 0 of plastic bags are used.
In 2015, the city collected 03% of the total amount of garbage.
The ban rate is close to 0.
12% in neighboring Fort Worth, which marks about 75% single
Use plastic bags in the landfill in Austin.
But, as Austin\'s assessment points out, reducing the use of products that are harmful to the environment does not guarantee positive environmental outcomes.
One of the main environmental benefits of the Austin ban should be to reduce the amount of energy and raw materials used to make bags.
To this end, the city encourages residents to use reusable bags.
Due to the greater energy required to produce stronger plastics, these bags have a larger carbon footprint, but as consumers become familiar with the new plastics, the city believes that the overall impact will be lower and more durable products.
What the city does not foresee is that residents will begin to treat reusable bags like singleuse bags.
A large number of reusable plastic packaging bags, now appearing in the recycling center of the city, have become \", with almost all single-use bags from recycled streams, regulations implemented in 2013, \"According to the assessment.
Those bags that are rarely used are landfill sites.
Because recycling is no longer a cost problem.
Effective reusable plastic bags than singleuse variety.
Some of these problems can be solved by increasing the use of reusable canvas bags.
But canvas is more dense than carbon produced in plastic;
Research shows that consumers need to use about 130 single canvas bags before starting to get any net environmental benefits compared to single canvas bagsUse plastic bags.
And, for some consumers, the higher price of canvas bags can be prohibitive in any case.
Austin\'s candid assessment of the actual achievements of its plastic bag ban is commendable;
This may not be the only city where the ban has unintended environmental consequences.
This should not stop scores from other cities in the United States. S.
Other places are also considering their own ban on plastic bags.
But it should encourage a more thorough and realistic assessment of what such bans can actually achieve and what damage may be caused in the process.
In terms of environmental policy, good intentions are often not good enough.
Contact the author of this story: Adam Minter of aminter @ bloomberg.