I was going to write a long and witty blog about this last night, but I had too much fun instead.
I wish I could attend the Public Works Committee meeting to speak against the ordinance, but instead I have to work. Undoubtedly, the press will mindlessly swallow Nancy Nadel’s and Jean Quan’s inane ramblings and regurgitate them without scrutiny. However, for those among the community with even a slight inclination towards critical thought, here are some things to consider. I apologize for the lack of links and such. I will try to update this with them later as time allows.
The report is a collection of half-truths and distortions. None of the arguments presented for banning plastic shopping bags stand up to inspection. Here are several reasons the Committee should reject this legislation.
- The City’s ban on styrofoam carryout containers has been a complete failure, and is openly flouted in coffee shops and restaurants throughout the City. When the Council continues to pass laws that they do not and cannot enforce, respect for both the Council’s authority and the law as a whole is degraded.
- The report repeatedly asserts that plastic bags must be banned because there are no meaningful recycling opportunities for them. In less than a week, a state law will go into effect creating mandatory plastic bag recycling programs at all major supermarkets. The argument will no longer be true.
- Paper bags are far worse for the environment than plastic bags. According to a source cited in the report, paper bags require 5 times more energy to produce than plastic bags, 84 times more energy to recycle than plastic bags, and generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags, and do not biodegrade at a faster rate than plastic. Why does the ordinance continue to permit them when they are so much more harmful? This ordinance will ultimately harm the environment by encouraging the use of paper bags.
- The report argues that plastic bags should be banned because they produce litter. The notion that a product should be banned in the city because it could potentially create litter sets an absurd precedent. Furthermore, there is no evidence that plastic bags are a major contributor to our litter problem. In the recently completed San Francisco litter audit, plastic retail bags were found to comprise only 0.6% of litter. In contrast, paper towels and napkins represented 13% of litter. Why are we not banning them instead?
- The report asserts that the ban is necessary because 80% of marine debris is plastic. But the study it cites to back up the claim does not identify plastic bags as a significant source of marine debris. Plastic forks and cups, plastic bottle caps, and plastic drinking bottles are identified as the major problems. Should we ban them too?
- The report disingenuously implies that Ireland has achieved a 90% decrease in the use of plastic bags by banning them. This is untrue. The Republic of Ireland has not banned plastic bags. They have instituted a tax and a consumer education campaign. Australia achieved a dramatic reduction in plastic bag consumption by partnering with retailers to create a voluntary reduction and consumer education campaign. This proposal is not, as suggested by the deceptive line, an imitation of policies that have been proven to work, when we’re actually just copy-catting San Francisco’s experimental legislation?
- Banning plastic bags places an unfair burden on pedestrians and bus riders. Paper bags break easily and are therefore not suitable for carrying any significant distance. How can this legislation claim to be promoting reduced fossil fuel consumption when in reality it is making it more difficult for people to shop without using their cars?
Most important, Oakland is a city with real problems that the Council needs to be addressing. We do not need our elected officials passing arbitrary legislation that simply sounds nice while having zero positive impacts for the people who live here.