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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Plastic Bag Bans

This has got to be one of the most horrid trends contributing to the combined laziness and incompetent nature of our current legal system: a ban on plastic bags. That's right, ever since Hippie Central (AKA San Francisco) decided in 2007 to place a ban on the use of plastic bags by supermarkets and chain pharmacies, other locations have been balancing their brains between the notion that it might be an environmentally-friendly idea and the warnings of sane people that it's a moronic idea and following suit would be sheer lunacy.

This week, the Los Angeles City Council teetered over the precipice of lunacy and has voted to ban all plastic bags in the city's supermarkets and stores by 2010.

I'll start this off by actually agreeing that some of the bleeding-heart liberals almost have a valid point when they talk about the evils of the plastic bags. They normally take between 100 and 1,000 years to biodegrade. (More on that later.) And yes, they tend to get caught in trees because of their lightweight nature and they wind up in streams and such and marine animals can eat them and die. While it's easy to say that "the kid who swallows too many marbles shouldn't grow up to have kids of his own" - I'll agree that it's a stretch to apply that logic to the turtles. I don't know how easy it is for a turtle to tell the difference between a fish and a freakin' plastic bag, but let's just pretend that somehow they look the same and it's not very nice to be killing off those poor confused sea creatures. And perhaps we use too many of them - we produce an estimated 500 billion of them a year, worldwide.

Okay, back to calling San Francisco and Los Angeles a bunch of idiots for imposing such ridiculous laws.

First of all, plastic bags were what we'd like to call a scientific and technological breakthrough. The ability to mass-produce a strong yet lightweight product that allows consumers to carry their items while also letting producers/manufacturers package their items was a proud day, in my opinion. Paper bags are often ineffective and unreliable, not to mention bulky and THEY CUT DOWN TREES. That was like one of the best reasons to make an alternative to paper bags in the first place! Doesn't anyone recall that little tree-hugging mantra? I mean there's no reason in arguing over the plastic bags that don't decompose fast enough to create mulch so new trees can grow and prosper is the alternative is just destroying the trees in the first place, right? The only alternative alternative is reusable material bags, which are costly, even bulkier, and require too much forethought to be effective. The likelihood of someone saying "it's time to make a grocery run - I'd better collect up my reusable bags so that I may use them once more at the grocery store" is minimal when compared to "oh dang I need milk right now and I'm passing by a store with milk so let me go and get milk and oh darn I don't have my reusable bag with me so just gimme something for free to carry it in so I'm not paying for another reusable bag that I'll never remember to use."

Secondly, we need to stop creating laws to claim things as obsolete. Remember when cassette tapes were popular and it was the most advanced way to listen to your favorite songs before this new-fangled "compact disc" came into existence? Well once we created the CD, it's not like we decided to ban the use/production of cassette tapes because we have better things now and cassettes are flooding the landfills and don't biodegrade and we need to pass laws to hold the recording industry responsible for this garbage and ban their production of cassettes! If you want to really call the plastic bag obsolete, you need to create something BETTER to REPLACE it. Once we came out with the CD and they were priced competitively and made available in mass amounts - we stopped using cassettes (for the most part). Just like the creation of cheap and effective plastic bags made the paper ones practically obsolete (there were very few paper-bag-choosers during the heyday of plastic baggery), if you want the plastic bag to be gone - a better choice has to come out. It has to fill the SAME NICHE (lightweight, strong, disposable, cheap) though. Reusable bags aren't meant to be cheap or disposable, so it's not a replacement. It's merely an alternative.

Thirdly, this is a freakin' non-issue! Remember how we mentioned that plastic bags normally take between 100 and 1,000 years to biodegrade? Well the point is that they DO BIODEGRADE. There must exist living organisms that can biodegrade plastic bags into compost. Ergo, there must be a way to identify those living organisms and culture them and use them to speed up the process by increasing the amount of those organisms and figuring out optimum conditions necessary to speed the process up exponentially. Oh wait, some 16-year-old kid in Canada already figured that out!

Do you understand how messed up this is now? That instead of pumping a minimal amount of money into a research grant to allow REAL scientists to build upon what some Canadian kid managed to accomplish, thereby creating efficient ways to completely biodegrade TONS of plastic bag material in LITTLE TIME - California cities are working to abolish plastic bags? That doesn't solve the PROBLEM, morons! The PROBLEM is millions of tons of plastic bags that we'd like to biodegrade, not the flow of the plastic bags!

That's as ridiculous as people becoming vegetarians because cows producing methane are causing global warming. The problem is the COWS and the METHANE, not people EATING the cows! If you convince everyone to stop eating cows, then the cows get ignored and continue to screw up the planet with global warming flatulence and WE ALL DIE.

Eat a Steak - Save the World! Remember?

In conclusion, it's just plain and simple stupidity to ban something that's completely legal to purchase or sell. It was insane when Chicago banned foie gras and luckily that's over now. If the following scenario is true, then something has gone horribly wrong and needs to be fixed:

In 2010, you can walk into a Los Angeles supermarket and purchase a container of plastic bags, but you can't have that container of plastic bags put into a plastic bag because that would be against the law.

This is horribly wrong and it needs to be fixed.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that scientists and entrepreneurs should be investing in the process that we know exists to speed up the biodegrading process of plastic bags? Or would you rather ban a legal product in an effort to ignore the real problem and boast that "at least WE'RE not making the problem worse" rather than work to solve the problem?

(Again, the article about the Canadian teenager who's apparently smarter than the Los Angeles City Council)
(The article about San Francisco being the first in the idiot-city parade)
(The article about Los Angeles joining the idiot-city parade)

Please Digg this article and spread the word that we need science and not insane laws!


jonesstreetusa said...

Aaron, I understand your point and think a great many people probably agree with you.

I have a 12 year old granddaughter who is a youth entrepreneur. She sells an insulated shopping bag utilizing space age technology that beats anything being sold in the store. I encourage you to take a look at her website, and specifically her "How to Use Kool Bags" page. You might change your mind.

Check it out at YouthBusiness.us

Anonymous said...

4 trillion to 5 trillion:
Number of nondegradable plastic bags used worldwide annually.
430,000 gallons:
Amount of oil needed to produce 100 million nondegradable plastic bags.
Source: S.F. Department of the Environment; Worldwatch Institute
E-mail Charlie Goodyear at cgoodyear@sfchronicle.com