Jun 16, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

Banning Plastic Bags Yielded to a Result Opposite of Expected

Apr 11, 2019 11:05 AM EDT


Everyone has probably experienced the "plastic bag ban" or at least heard of some places doing so. New York, for example, recently became the second state to ban plastic bags from using in the shops. Most of the environmentally conscious public sees this as a major step in the battle against single-use plastic waste. But what if plastic bags weren't really considered "single-use"?

Plastic waste is a serious problem and are known to find their way to rivers, lakes, oceans, landfills, and can even be seen floating down busy streets. However, a recent study shows that places, where plastic bags have been banned, witnessed an increase in plastic waste. The results of the study reveals the alternative solution to plastic bags may not be as helpful as originally thought.

Rebecca Taylor, an economist from the University of Sydney, conducted a study on "The effect of disposable carryout bag regulations on unregulated bags". The case study follows some cities and counties in California that banned plastic bags, and what she discovered was that the ban had helped to reduce nearly 40 million pounds of plastic waste. However, in just months after the ban began, Taylor's study also indicates an alarming rate of purchases for small, four-gallon plastic garbage bags, doubling the amount of plastic bag pollution than before. 

That's mainly due to the fact that people were looking for something to use instead of the newly banned plastic shopping bags that they once reused for various reasons such as the lining of small wastebaskets in their homes as well as picking up pet waste and possibly storing food, showing that plastic bags may not actually be single-use plastics.

Several studies have shown that the "greener" choice-paper bags-are far worse for the planet than plastic. Although the paper bag can be recycled and reused, paper bags require serious amounts of water, chemicals, and fuel to be produced. In fact, one study from the Danish government found organic cloth bags would need to be reused almost 20,000 times for it to be a better environmental choice than plastic.

While the debate rages on; paper or plastic, cloth bags or an even more environmentally friendly choice such as sturdy, reusable bags--usually purchased at the counter of most supermarkets--these seem to be our only logical choices at this time. With that being said, we must take it as a personal responsibility and a challenge to ourselves, to use these bags efficiently and limit our own personal waste.

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