Plastic bag ban not environmentally advantageous
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 23:02
While the newly enacted Corvallis plastic bag ban may be another example of government’s intrusion into consumer choices, we can at least agree that it is beneficial for the environment, right? Well, maybe not.
If we do an energy-consumption comparison of plastic and paper bags, the latter being the current allowed bag (albeit at 5 cents apiece), the truth becomes clear: Paper bags are not more beneficial for the environment.
Approximately 8,300 barrels of oil are used to produce and transport 100 million plastic bags. Comparably, roughly 15,100 barrels of oil are used to produce and transport 100 million paper bags, according to policy annalist Skaidra Smith-Heisters for Reason’s New Environmentalism program. Some may argue the degradation time for paper bags is much less than plastic, but with the influx of biodegradable plastics, the divide diminishes.
Aside from environmental issues, matters of convenience are put to the test by this governmental imposition of supposed nobility. In the rain-soaked environment of the Willamette Valley, paper bags do not hold up against water. Considering the environmentally conscious, small-town mentality of most Corvallis citizens, the ability to walk to the market for groceries is lessened when considering the lack of durability of paper bags in rain.
Re-usable bags are a great option, no doubt, and are already widely used. But if an idea is inherently good, do we really need fines and punishments to use a plastic bag?
When two intelligent entities interact, there are two methods in which to do so: Through force or through reason. Personally, when I am forced to do something, I resent and resist the entity rendering the force. The environmental movement is no doubt necessary to the longevity of our species, and Earth as we know it (habitable to humans), but we must ask ourselves if it should be done through reason or force. We must make conscious efforts to make smart decisions that have a genuinely positive impact on our environment, and not be forced to do things that only appear to be beneficial. It lessens the seriousness of our cause, and turns people away who are not already on board.
I have been a reusable bag guy for a couple of years now, simply because it doesn’t make sense to waste plastic or paper. There are, however, some cases where plastic bags come in handy. The idea that a business can be fined $2,500 for failing to charge money for a bag, or for selling a plastic bag, is extreme. It will not win the favor of those who are not already climate-conscious. I do not wish to be misinterpreted as an anti-environmentalist because I truly believe there is no more important issue than our Mother Earth, after that of our natural human rights. What we need are education and economically viable alternatives, not government force. Anyone who is convinced to do something through reason is much happier than if coerced through force.
The negative aspects of the bag ban are three-fold:
•It is not directly environmentally advantageous.
•It reduces convenience and choice for consumers.
•It is another example of government force.
I urge our city council to reconsider its actions, and to instead consider other methods to convince citizens of Corvallis to make conscious choices that benefit the environment. What we need is improved technology, and that will come when the private market deems it viable. The private market will provide these technologies when they are scientifically mature and when the consumer demands environmentally-conscious alternatives.
While living in a world full of gas-fueled cars and coal-generated electricity, this unnecessary law is akin to cleaning the ocean with a dirty aquarium filter. Let us focus on the real issues affecting the environment, and convince those who are unsure of the necessity for change through reason and fact. Government force will never change the world for good. Only the collective action of a free people making rational decisions will.
Alex Abelson is majoring in physics. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.