Banning The Ban?

I have always loved my home state, but sometimes we do things, often inadvertently, that just make me prouder than pink.

You might recall N.J. Governor Phil Murphy and his state legislators enacting a law to ban plastic and paper shopping bags. Supposedly bolstering conservation in my great Garden State, when Murphy signed the law, he said, “With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

Well, Phil…

According to a new study by The Freedonia Group, from the 53 million pounds of plastic shopping bags used before the implementation of the ban four years ago, N.J.’s use has risen to 151 million.

And there’s more bad bag ban news (say that three times fast).

The study shows that since the ban took hold in May 2022, the reusable bags NJersians are getting and hoarding (and are littering my basement and backseat) are rarely reused (3 times max on average). Furthermore, the same study found one retailer made an estimated $42—million selling reusable bag fees (how’s that for a ban that bolsters somebody’s pocketbook!). And the Freedonia report claims that in order for these reusable bags to benefit our environment they need to be used anywhere from 11-59 times (indeed a wide range, I grant you).

But most significantly, reusable bags are actually manufactured with 15 to 20 times the amount of plastic. Mostly, these bags are made with what is called ‘non-woven polypropylene,’ not recycled in any widely considered way in the U.S. This means there has been an increase in consumption of polypropylene bags, which has contributed to a 500% increase in the old GHG or greenhouse gas emissions, since 2005.

As our senator Bob Smith was quoted in the New York Times, “There’s clearly a hiccup on this.”

Hiccup? Ya think, Bobby?

To my simple view of things, and I have been saying this for a while now, all too often, our supposed technological improvements or environmental workarounds don’t ever make things better. In fact, they kind of ‘f’ them up. 

Let’s face it, I don’t want to be inconvenienced. I’m not political, so I don’t care which side needs to bolster which cause with their seeming play to the citizenry enacting more restrictive laws. And I’m not really all that concerned about what we are doing to the planet (say it isn’t so Ralph!) Frankly, I believe we human beings think way too much of ourselves, imagining we really affect things all that much. We are a blip on the scene here, an insignificant bug in the planet’s matrix….at best. There is a great old George Carlin moment where he says–and forgive me for I am paraphrasing–but when humans are no longer around, the planet will simply shrug us off and go on.

I agree.

When the bag ban came, I was once again incensed over being put out (and having to store the things in my car when I almost always forget them when I first walk into the store and have to walk back to grab them) and how a whole lot of people just went along with some supposed ‘scientific’ findings that bag banning would help.

Now, we might see otherwise. Sounds like the facts of a pandemic we are slowly coming to learn…sorry, I digress. But in this day and age of the split-second dissemination of information (I love that band, “Dissemination of Information”), one might be best to dig a little deeper before one jumps all in by what a legislature (a legislature that just gave themselves a pay raise!!!) claims.

See you in the funny papers, kids. Just make sure you recycle those papers.

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