May 10 - Plastic Industry Uses False and Misleading Claims to Attack Bag Ban

The Plastics Industry is at it again: Using false and misleading claims to attack state and local efforts to phase out single use plastic grocery bags.

Plastic industry TV and radio ads cite the industry’s own bought and paid for ‘studies’ to make false and misleading attacks against reusable bags and recycled paper bags.

This is not the first time that the Plastics Industry has used false and misleading tactics to try to distract the public and policy makers from their own problem product.

Plastic grocery bags have been targeted for phase out in California and across the globe because the environmental and economic consequences of these single-use products have been found to far exceed their utility:

• Plastic grocery bags pose a deadly risk to turtles, birds and 663 other marine species through entanglement or accidental ingestion.
• The economic impact of plastic bag pollution is large and burdensome; local governments spend up to $103 million each year to manage plastic bag pollution.
• Even when properly disposed, plastic grocery bags are easily picked up by the wind and deposited in storm drains and waterways. Once there, they never degrade, they simply break into smaller and smaller pieces.

Seventy-five California communities, covering nearly one-third of the state’s population, have already successfully adopted bans of single use plastic grocery bags. These communities have seen positive results in reducing single-use bag pollution and related economic and environmental costs, and it’s time for the rest of the state to catch up. SB 405 (Padilla) would phase out single-use plastic bags statewide, promote reusable bags, and allow stores to sell recycled content paper bags at cost.

One year after LA County implemented its bag ban there was a 95% reduction in the distribution of all single-use bags, including a 30% reduction of paper bags. In San Jose, they’ve seen an 89% reduction in plastic bag litter in storm drains, a 50% reduction in creeks and a 59% reduction in city streets. The results speak for themselves.

Claims suggesting negative impacts of plastic bag bans are false.

Paper bags do not produce more Green House Gas (GHG) than plastic. Every analysis to date shows that the manufacture and use of plastic bags generates more pollution—including GHG—than paper. Even the Industry’s own study shows paper bags produce 59% less GHG over their lifecycle, and use less fossil fuel.

Reusable bags have not been proven to cause foodborne illness. The so-called studies funded by the plastics industry are grossly misleading and contain numerous flaws. One study simply shows that reusable bags can contain the same array of everyday bacteria that are commonly found on our hands, cloths, and in our homes. The second study of people that contracted food borne diseases never asks or suggests that reusable bags are a source. Washing reusable bags when they get dirty eliminates any risk of illness.

The threat to California jobs is vastly overstated. In fact, two companies in California that make plastic grocery bags employ less than 25% of the industry job claim, and these two companies have already diversified to make other products including reusable bags. By comparison, there are seven California companies manufacturing reusable bags.

Recycling is not a solution to plastic bag pollution. While plastic bags are ‘technically’ recyclable, the truth is less than 5% of plastic bags are actually recycled each year. The production rate is outstripping the recycling rate by double-digits. Each year more plastic bags are distributed, disposed and littered than the year before—Californians used 14 billion single-use plastic bags in 2010.

The risks posed to wildlife and the environment by the continued proliferation of single-use plastic bags, which are used for five minutes but last for 500 years, far outweigh any so-called benefits.