It seems we might be about to get another burst of anti-plastic bag hysteria. In recent days both the Queensland and NSW Governments have discussed the possibility of implementing plastic bag bans, and federal environment minister Greg Hunt placed the issue on the agenda at a Ministerial roundtable on Monday.
Some Australian jurisdictions have already banned so-called “single use” bags. Instead, shoppers get slugged 15 cents for more robust bags that in theory are not ‘single use’, but their very solidity makes them less useful in many ways than the more humble ones. Of course, the humble ones also cost consumers nothing, although I am still waiting for a consumer activist to spring to their defence.
Australia is not the only country where the convenience of getting your shopping in plastic bags is under threat. In 2014, California became the first US state to pass laws banning the plastic bag. Some US cities had already done so. In Austin, Texas, even the local Resource Recovery Group had to admit that the net result of the ban, once greenhouse gases involved in making reusable bags and other impacts were taken into account, was not what they expected – it turned out worse for the environment.
A comprehensive study of plastic bag bans was undertaken by the Reason Foundation in 2014. It found that:
In sum, over the past 30 years, decisions by consumers and retailers have dramatically shifted consumption toward bags with superior environmental and cost characteristics, namely those made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. By banning HDPE plastic bags, legislators have been reversing this trend, to the detriment of the environment and consumers.
You can read the full Reason Foundation report here. Australian governments should read it too.