Aug 17 - Bogus Study Released on Bag Ban Impacts to Stores

A recent survey conducted by a Texas based organization is reporting that the LA County bag ordinance has negatively impacted its stores.

Some of the results of the survey, as highlighted by Plastics News:

"stores outside the ban region reported an increase in sales of about 3.4 percent, whereas stores inside the ban region experienced a 3.3 percent decrease in sales"

"Four-fifths of stores within the ban region reported a sales decrease averaging 5.7 percent"

"every store inside the ban area was forced to lay off employees, none of the stores outside the ban area did so"

But dig a little deeper and you’ll see the abysmal response rate for the survey (glossed over on page 3 of the report): 3%.

Only THREE percent of over 800 stores that the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) contacted for the study actually responded, which comes out to about 26 stores total. The report never distinguishes how many of those respondents are from the incorporated areas and how many are from unincorporated LA County.

So that "4/5 of stores within the ban region" reporting decreased sales? That’s no more than 20 stores throughout the largest county in the state—and that’s assuming most of the stores who responded were in the unincorporated areas.

It’s unclear from the report how many stores outside of the ban area responded to the survey, so the claims that 60% of incorporated stores had a 9% increase in sales and 2.4% increase in employment carry little weight. The highest amount of actual stores this could likely be (conservatively assuming all stores responding were in incorporated areas) is about 15 stores total.

We highlight and provide comments on some of the report below:

Inadequate Survey Response Rate

According to Earl Babbie, author of "The Practice of Social Research", an adequate response rate is 50%. While other survey experts may have a slightly different percentage for what’s considered an acceptable response rate, none of them come close to the single digits. The NCPA has created bogus findings based on an incredibly low response rate to its survey.

Incineration Is Not Recycling

The report argues that "Producing plastic, paper and other types of bags requires energy, but some of that energy can be recovered if bags are recycled through combustion."

Combustion is not recycling. True recycling of a product would create a recycled content, recyclable product. Incineration merely uses a product once before the resource is lost forever.

Landfill Waste Impacts

The report states that "reusable cloth bags contributed the most solid waste" compared to plastic or paper bags.

However, reusable cloth bags are reused many times over and can be recycled to help reduce their solid waste impacts.

The NCPA fails to note that paper bags, while being more likely to be recycled than plastic bags with a 50% recycling rate, will degrade if not recycled. Meanwhile plastic bags, with a 3% recycling rate in CA and thus a greater chance of ending up as litter or in the landfill than paper or reusable bags, merely break down into smaller pieces and remain in the environment for a much longer time.

Reusable Bags are the Best Environmentally Friendly Choice After Just 8 Uses

Despite what the NCPA may be trying to say about reusable bags, a recent study showed that reusable polyethylene bags with 40% post consumer content had the lowest environmental impacts after just 8 uses compared to single use bags, with an even greater environmental benefit after 52 uses.

Plastic Bag Impacts

The NCPA report overlooks the fact that while plastic bags are lightweight and compact, they have a disproportionate impact on the environment and economy and never break down. LA County conducted an environmental impact report detailing these and other impacts and performed a socioeconomic impact analysis for their ordinance.

Recycling Does Not Work

The NCPA refers to a recent report which touts increased plastic bag recycling rates.

But a comparison of data from that report and a US EPA report shows that from 2009 to 2010, a modest increase in plastic bag recycling (27 million lbs) was swamped by the substantially greater growth in plastic bag generation and disposal (220 million lbs).

The report had also estimated that "bags make up 40 to 55 percent of the commingled bales purchased from retail program." But a CalRecycle report shows that plastic bags represent less than 6% of plastic film collected at retail stores. This adjustment would substantially reduce the volume of plastic bags reported as recycled versus overall mixed film. Read more on our website.

Reusable Bag Safety

We’ve seen the scare tactics on reusable bag safety before. When the University of Arizona study on reusable bags was first circulated in 2010, its researchers did not specify the e.coli strains found (many of which are benign) and noted that awareness was the simple and easy solution to resolve these minor problems associated with dirty reusable bags.


The fact is, the LA County ordinance, which has been in effect since mid 2011 in larger stores and throughout all covered stores since 2012, is working well. Staff has reported a 94% reduction of all single-use bags, and similar proposals have been seen throughout the area and even in the State Legislature.

Support AB 298, the statewide proposal to ban plastic bags.