Here's an opinion from my colleague Ivan Lerner about San Francisco's recent regulation on plastic bags. The article, titled "Rally round the bag" was published on the Endpoint section of ICIS Chemical Business magazine (January 28, 2008).
San Francisco has become the first US city to ban plastic bags, meaning that litter will no longer be a problem there.
Oh, and the Golden Gate Bridge is for sale, too!
By Ivan Lerner/New York
Banning plastic bags will not stop people from being morons and filthy slobs.
There are no health or safety issues intrinsic to plastic bags. They are only bad if you do something stupid like put one over your head and it seems as if the biggest complaint against them is their status as trash littering the landscape, which I agree with: I hate litter and wish I knew kung fu so I could force litterbugs to clean up after themselves.
It might not be fair of me to side with the industry and be pro-plastic bag recycling, but San Francisco's ban (implemented in November) smacks of an act taken because it sounded "nice."
Here in The Big Apple, the city council has just passed the New York City Plastic Carryout Bag Recycling Law, which requires stores in the five boroughs that occupy 5,000 square feet (465m²) or more to set up an in-store recycling program for bags.
Now, will this stop littering in New York? Not at first, but shopkeepers, grumbling about lost space for merchandise, are going to make sure customers are aware of the program: "Hey! Bring those @#!* bags back and recycle! Donchu care 'bout Mudda Nature!?!"
I suppose it is more important for San Francisco's civic nannies to impose their will, rather than educate consumers to conserve, either by recycling, reusing bags or by buying a European-style canvas shopping bag to use.
Good times, Bag times
In a survey commissioned by Telles, a joint venture between Metabolix, a biodegradable plastics manufacturer, and agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland, 40% of Americans who responded thought standard petroleum-based plastic bags, however you dispose them, would biodegrade.
In their favor, though, when informed that their opinions on the biodegradability of plastic bags were erroneous, 50% of respondents said they would be willing to pay an extra 5-10% for biodegradable plastics.
But "biodegradable" doesn't mean "poof - it vanishes into pixie dust as soon as you are done unpacking your groceries."
If you toss a biodegradable bag out of the window of your car, it will get tangled in the branches of a tree or litter the side of the road, just like anything you toss from your car window.