Letters to the Editor

The truth about plastic bags

Responding to a June 20 letter to the editor ("It's time to sack plastic bags," Auburn Reporter), which expressed commonly misguided rationale for banning plastic bags.

These justifications are misconceptions of environmental issues surrounding plastic bags – largely based on junk science. The truth is plastic retail bags are the best environmental option at the checkout.

Environmental studies have proven that plastic grocery bags are simply not a major contributor to litter, across the United States. In fact, plastic bags make up less than 0.5 percent of the municipal waste stream and traditionally a fraction of 1 percent of litter in most cities.

Banning plastic bags forces consumers to options that increase greenhouse gas levels in our atmosphere. The process required to manufacture and distribute reusable bags is energy intensive and puts more carbon in the air than the process for plastic bags. American-made plastic bags are produced from natural gas, are 100-percent recyclable and emit far fewer greenhouse gases in their production.

Although many believe reusable bags are more environmentally friendly, a recent Edelman Berland study found that shoppers routinely forget them at home and use them far less frequently than intended. These bags pose health hazards as breeding grounds for bacteria, especially when consumers admittedly never clean them. Approximately 16.4 million Americans bring reusable bags into grocery stores each week that have never been cleaned.

If Auburn were to focus on recycling plastic bags as opposed to banning them, we could promote environmental stewardship while avoiding the undesirable path of regulation.

– Philip R. Rozenski, American Progressive Bag Association

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