Economics, Energy and the Environment

Guns don’t kill people; Plastic bag bans kill people…

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The country is debating whether or not banning certain kinds of guns might save lives. In the spirit of public safety, it’s worth looking at a different ban we’re learning is actually costing lives: Bans on plastic bags.

Tim Taylor sheds helpful light on the subject in a discussion of San Francisco’s plastic bag ban:

One recent local environmental cause, especially popular in California, has been to ban or tax plastic grocery bags. The expressed hope is that shoppers will instead carry reusable grocery bags back and forth to the grocery store, and that plastic bags will be less likely to end up in landfills, or blowing across hillsides, or floating in water. The problem is that almost no one ever washes their reusable grocery bags. Reusuable grocery bags often carry raw meat, unseparated from other foods, and are often stored for convenience in the trunk of cars that sit outside in the sun. In short, reusuable grocery bags can be a friendly breeding environment for E. coli bacteria, which can cause severe illness and even death.

… San Francisco typically experiences about 12 deaths per year from intestinal infections, and that the restrictions on plastic bags probably let to another 5-6 deaths per year in that city–plus, of course, the personal and social costs of some dozens of additional hospitalizations. With these costs taken into account, restrictions on plastic bags stop looking like a good idea.

NB: When he was here, our own Ken Green was way ahead of the curve on this issue.

7 thoughts on “Guns don’t kill people; Plastic bag bans kill people…

  1. Oh, but plastic bags kill people too. Isn’t that a good enough reason to ban them?

    I remember years ago a regular ad campaign to raise the awareness of the dangers of plastic bags (Mostly clothing bags at the time.) to children. Now days you’ll often find the warning printed on the bags used for various kinds of packaging. Perhaps what we need is another ad campaign (Government funded, of course…) to promote more careful use and cleaning of these reusable bags. (Or at least require warnings be printed on them.) Yeah, right.

    • just treat the bags like cigarettes, require the bags have “WASH ME OR DIE” printed in 8″ letters all over them. I might actually use them if they said something manly like that on them.

  2. That is the stupidest piece of idiocy I’ve read in a long time. Did the intestinal deaths in SF come from the bags? Probably not, and the connection that is suggested is weak. Most probably came from poor hygiene or food prep practices, and were among the elderly or very young; a population most at risk for e-coli death.

    It’s just more fodder for fearful gun nuts to try and fight regulation. No one’s looking to take all the guns away, we just want regulate them properly.

  3. It’s about to happen here in Austin. 3 weeks? Local NPR interviewed a few people and businessmen. All were OK with it. Sampling error?

    I have to wonder: when I start driving to the store, realize I forgot my bags, return home, etc., how many bags could have been produced from the oil used to propel my car the extra distance? (Not to mention the lost time.)

    Oh well, one more environmental sin “eliminated” thanks to our political priests.

  4. First the greens banned paper bags as trees were too sacred to cut down, forcing us to use plastic. How many sea turtles died because of that emotive lunacy. Now they want to ban plastic bags. Lats generations emotive crusade leads to the next generations eco-catastrophe. Bio-fuels is already cutting down the rain forests and starving over 200 million more a year. I got an idea, nest time you greens get an idea go smoke some dope and DONT act on it.

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