Time to stop making single-use plastic bags?

The past few years have seen an increasing number of countries and major companies moving to ban or reduce the use of plastic bags. Now Austin, state capital of Texas, and the 14th largest US city has voted to introduce criminal penalties for any retailer breaking its new law.

ICIS’ Joe Kamalick notes that “the Austin bag ban law also requires that retailers post signs informing customers that they must bring their own multi-use bags, any failure to post such signs could be subject to the misdemeanour criminal penalty”.

The maximum penalty is $2000, although the ban “includes exemptions for plastic bags used by laundries and dry cleaners, newspaper delivery bags and some other single-use plastic bags provided by specific vendors such as pharmacies and for restaurant carry-out foods”.

The blog remains fully supportive of such bans, although it regrets any criminalisation measures. The video above, first posted last May, highlights the enormous environmental damage caused by these single-use bags. They are simply too light, and cannot be properly contained during or after use.

The situation seems to parallel other occasions where products have been withdrawn after it was found they produced unintended, and unwelcome, side effects. Nobody today, for example, would advocate adding lead to gasoline to boost octane, now we know about its health hazards.

The polymer industry would boost its public image, and lose very little in terms of total sales volume, if single-use bag manufacturers were to voluntarily stop production.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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