Why Bans on Plastic Bags and Straws Are Annoying and Overrated

The Daily Signal | 6/10/2019 | Staff
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Jarrett Stepman is an editor and commentary writer for The Daily Signal and co-host of "The Right Side of History" podcast. Send an email to Jarrett.

Canada, following precedent set by the European Union, is poised to join a growing list of places where single-use plastic items have been banned. Though the government hasn’t specified which items will actually be outlawed in 2021, according to the Guardian, “bottles, plastic bags, and straws” are being considered.

Bags - Straws - Products - Regulations

First, they came for the bags. Then, they came for the straws, but perhaps instead of looking for other common products to ban, we should look at what these regulations actually do.

Of course, plastic bans aren’t just restricted to Europe and Canada.

Bans - California - New - York - Number

Plastic-bag bans have come to California and New York, and to a number of cities in the United States. The bans are typically aimed at grocery stores and other businesses that give out the bags to customers to carry out purchased items.

The bag bans are billed as a means to reduce waste and pollution by forcing Americans to bring reusable bags to stores.

Bans - Inconvenience - Benefits - Environment—and - Things

However, it turns out that not only are those bans an inconvenience, they also have questionable positive benefits for the environment—and may actually be making things worse.

A recent study by University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor in Australia established that bans on plastic shopping bags change behavior; namely, people used fewer plastic shopping bags as the sources dried up.

People - Plastic - Bags - Plastic - Bags

However, people didn’t stop using plastic bags as a whole. Instead of reusing plastic bags as trash-can liners, for example, customers purchased garbage bags to make up for the lost supply. In areas with the shopping-bag bans, there was a huge upsurge in the purchase of four-gallon bags. These bags are typically thicker than the thin plastic shopping bags and use more plastic.

“What I found was...
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