Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham wants to impose a fee on use of plastic bags because he’s “fed up with driving down the streets, noticing plastic bags plastered to the needles of what would otherwise be attractive desert plants.” This fee, essentially a tax on food and other items, is supposed to discourage use. Cunningham’s quest will probably work as well as Rio Nuevo, the City’s grossly mismanaged attempt at urban renewal. Just how will a fee on plastic bags solve the problem of littering?
Plastic bags are recyclable; some are even biodegradable. According to the Arizona Daily Star, “Tucson currently requires grocery stores to provide recycling collection for plastic bags.” Even easier is to dispose of the bags in your home recycle container.
The war on plastic bags is a current eco-fad. Other cities charge fees, some even ban plastic bags. But, alternatives to plastic bags present their own problems. Paper bags pose a littering problem too and use up trees.
Some people bring their own reusable bags, especially for groceries. But that too, has problems.
Bags made from non-woven polypropylene, the most commonly used material in reusable grocery bags, have been shown to contain excessive lead which can pose a danger. Also a study by Canadian microbiologist Dr. Richard Summerbell found that unless you wash reusable fabric grocery bags after each use, they can harbor unacceptably high levels of bacteria, yeast, and mold. “The study found that 64% of the reusable bags tested were contaminated with some level of bacteria and close to 30% had elevated bacterial counts higher than what’s considered safe for drinking water,” according to the National Post, Canada.
By the way, a British study of all types of bags found that plastic bags were superior because they take less energy and water to make and less energy to recycle, as well as taking up less space in landfills (link).
I suspect that some of the bags seen plastered to cactus needles are fugitives from garbage trucks and land fills.
It seems that Cunningham is following the second law of government institutions: “All problems will be solved with infusions of money taken by coercion from the people.” -Mark David Ledbetter
As for Mr. Cunningham’s concern about aesthetics, I have just one word: POTHOLES.