Progressive? Seattle bans plastic bags, institutes charge for paper

Beam my groceries home, Scotty.

The New York Times reports,

“Twenty cents [for paper/plastic bags] felt kind of punitive, especially for low-income folks,” said Mike O’Brien, a [former Sierra Club official and] council member whose committee introduced the current bill…

“There’s a competitive side to seeing who can come up with the most progressive legislation,” said Mr. O’Brien, who was a local Sierra Club leader, and a candidate for the Council, when the bag fee was on the ballot.

21 thoughts on “Progressive? Seattle bans plastic bags, institutes charge for paper”

  1. A tax on groceries is almost always regressive. This is even more so than usual because the people that will be hurt the most are those who have to walk significant distances to take home their groceries.

  2. It is a characteristic of both the Progressives and the Greens that they are incapable of imagining (or caring) how thier programs would affect *other people*, as long as the emotional gratification they themselves have for ‘saving the world’ remains.

  3. Sir, your inane comment says much more about your ignorance and shortsightedness than about the issue at hand. I am a “progressive” and a “green” and, based on your comment, I am quite sure that I am more inclined than you to consider all aspects of such issues. The ban on plastic bags will at worst require a trivial adjustment in how we carry groceries. There is no reason to perceive this as a hardship. Plastic grocery bags have never been an ideal method for carrying groceries a long distance. They are a bad habit to which we never should have become accustomed or felt entitled. Reuseable cloth bags are very inexpensive and are much less likely to tear. Once we get used to using them, we will not miss plastic grocery bags. The minor inconvenience is far outweighed by the important benefit that this will mean for millions of marine creatures, especially if it catches on worldwide.

  4. Sorry, Stan. The plastic bag-marine animal scare is a myth. From The Times (UK) in March 2008:

    Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags which they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims.

    The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds…

    Campaigners say that plastic bags pollute coastlines and waterways, killing or injuring birds and livestock on land and, in the oceans, destroying vast numbers of seabirds, seals, turtles and whales. However, The Times has established that there is no scientific evidence to show that the bags pose any direct threat to marine mammals.

    They “don’t figure” in the majority of cases where animals die from marine debris, said David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the subject. Most deaths were caused when creatures became caught up in waste produce. “Plastic bags don’t figure in entanglement,” he said. “The main culprits are fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands. Most mammals are too big to get caught up in a plastic bag.”

    He added: “The impact of bags on whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals ranges from nil for most species to very minor for perhaps a few species.For birds, plastic bags are not a problem either.”

    The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.

    Fifteen years later in 2002, when the Australian Government commissioned a report into the effects of plastic bags, its authors misquoted the Newfoundland study, mistakenly attributing the deaths to “plastic bags”.

    The figure was latched on to by conservationists as proof that the bags were killers. For four years the “typo” remained uncorrected. It was only in 2006 that the authors altered the report, replacing “plastic bags” with “plastic debris”. But they admitted: “The actual numbers of animals killed annually by plastic bag litter is nearly impossible to determine.”

    In a postscript to the correction they admitted that the original Canadian study had referred to fishing tackle, not plastic debris, as the threat to the marine environment.

    Regardless, the erroneous claim has become the keystone of a widening campaign to demonise plastic bags.

    David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told The Times that bad science was undermining the Government’s case for banning the bags. “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags,” he said. “The evidence shows just the opposite. We are not going to solve the problem of waste by focusing on plastic bags.

    “It doesn’t do the Government’s case any favours if you’ve got statements being made that aren’t supported by the scientific literature that’s out there. With larger mammals it’s fishing gear that’s the big problem. On a global basis plastic bags aren’t an issue. It would be great if statements like these weren’t made.”

    Geoffrey Cox, a Tory member of the Commons Environment Select Committee, said: “I don’t like plastic bags and I certainly support restricting their use, but plainly it’s extremely important that before we take any steps we should rely on accurate information. It is bizarre that any campaign should be endorsed on the basis of a mistranslation. Gordon Brown should get his facts right.”

  5. Stan, if you are meaning the millions of marine creatures that are strangled by plastic bags annually, you will have to rethink your position. That wildly popular paper was a mistranslation. The original Japanese said plastic “NETS”. Specifically, gill-nets.

    While I can agree with your ignorance and shortsightedness comments (Seriously Tom, those posts simply say “ignore me, I don’t considere the opposing side”). The problem is simply not a problem. The “solution” I have found to be quite inconvenient, often to the point of having cloth bags in the car and deliberately not using them. They get soaked and filthy very quickly and offer no benefits whatsoever for my usage. If they were such a boon, then the mandate would be unnecessary. Since they are not a boon, then the mandate is unwise.

    Either way, the mandate should not be enacted.

  6. Considering that plastic grocery bags are commonly reused as trash bags, banning or fining people for using them will increase sales of plastic garbage bags. Also, cloth bags harbor bacteria, particularly when transporting wet and/or fresh foods, which requires frequent washing that consumes both energy and fresh water.

  7. Selective referencing proves nothing. I try not to comment about that which I have inadequate knowledge and as a professor of environmental science, I am quite aware of the publications and studies to which you refer and I can cite dozens that contradict them. Those of us who spend every day of our entire careers studying such things are frustrated by those who read a couple of magazine articles and then presume to know better. As I am accustomed to do, I shall agree to disagree and wish you a nice holiday.

  8. Years ago we used paper bags and used cardboard boxes suplied by the stores. It worked fine. Then plastic bags were cheaper, faster and easier to use. We refuse plastic bags for the larger items as we don’t need them and simply recycle the plastic bags or reuse them. The problem is not plastic bags per se, it is a lack of responsibility on the part of people and if they throw plastic bags out on the street, they will throw paper or cloth bags or tin cans or anything else. But then common sense and responsibility is anathema to those of the “educated” elite.

  9. It is odd to claim selective referencing when you reference nothing of your own. At least Steve backed up his criticism of the ban. You have simply declared yourself an authority, looked down your nose, and exited the conversation without attempting to refute. Not really convincing there, buddy.

  10. Progressive idiots (a redundancy, I know) in San Francisco are planning the same kind of legislation.

  11. Of course if people were responsible about limiting use and recycling, the bags would not be a problem.
    “Educated elite”? I grew up poor, worked night shift in a nut and bolt factory while I went to college, graduated when I was 28, then went to school at night to finish a master’s degree at 35, and a PhD at 41. I now make $48,000 per year. Nothing elite about me. But if that was directed at me, thanks for the complement, however judgmental.

  12. Anathema: A thing or person accursed or damned. (Websters). Sorry but I thought that those boasting a PHD in “Studies Studies” already knew that.

  13. Plastics are oil products, so they must be bad, Paper bags are made from trees, and in the “Save a Tree World” must be even worse. Odd that the paper companies plant millions (thousands?) of trees that are only good for paper. Should we deny these trees their destiny?

  14. Pretty much obviously, ole Stan wasted his $ on getting a PhD! He didn’t learn too much. Sc..w your credentials. They have no bearing on your (seriously lacking) common sense. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” or “different” with plastic bags vis-s-vis any other bags.

  15. I have to agree with Tom. Greens and Progressives always put the environment before people. Consider the single lightbulb that could change their lives, denied poor Indians because a hydroelectric dam might interfere with the environment. Consider the malaria that kills thousands in third world countries because inexpensive mosquito eradication (DDT) is banned. One could go on and on, but it isn’t necessery. You only need to keep one eye on the green/progressive agenda to see it for what it is.

  16. I don’t think that last one was really Stan. It’s out of character. Anathema goes further than that, though. It was part of the ancient rite of excommunication, where a person was not only declared to be going down below (the damned part), but that no Christian could interact or deal with them (the anathema part).

  17. Greens and progressive don’t care about other people? They always put the environment before people? Educated elite (whatever that means) hate responsibility? If you disagree with an individual, by all means, say so, but such generalizations are goofy and infantile and make conservatives look stupid and backward. I agree that many environmentalists go overboard as do many conservatives, but let’s not go overboard with undue criticism. I believe their hearts are in the right place and they feel that they are doing what is best for the planet and for people as much as you do.
    As I understand it, the bags don’t kill so much by entanglement as by ingestion by animals that cannot distinguish them from jellyfishes. Also, as they break down to smaller particles, they are consumed by filter feeders and then the toxins from the plastics are concentrated in the tissues of animals up through the food chain (which includes humans).
    I applaud you who don’t automatically believe everything you hear from science, but Stan does have a valid point that millions of Americans choose to believe what they are told by nonscientists like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and everyone on Fox News on topics like manmade climate change, evolution, and plastic grocery bags, rather than those who know the most about these topics. I don’t have a PhD, but I have studied enough science to realize that it is not just about common sense. I hate to admit it, but I hear opinions based on flawed and incomplete understanding of science from conservatives way more than from liberals. No amount of common sense can make up for ignorance of the facts.
    Back to the plastic bags: I can’t decide if I agree with the law or not, but based on what I have read and what I believe about the harm that they can do, I stopped using them a long time ago. I also will never eat ocean shrimp because of what I know about bycatch. Personally, I wish everyone felt the same as I do about this. Humans are much more adaptable than turtles and dolphins. Many of us thought it was an inconvenience when we had to start pumping our own gasoline, but we survived the adjustment just fine.

  18. So…. “but such generalizations are goofy and infantile and make conservatives look stupid and backward.” and then “millions of Americans choose to believe what they are told by nonscientists” and “hear opinions based on flawed and incomplete understanding of science from conservatives way more than from liberals”.

    Generalizing after condemning generalizations is not helpful to your case. Adding on top of that anecdotal statements is probably more harmful to your intentions.

  19. I did not generalize. It is a fact that 14 million people listen to Rush Limbaugh every day. It is a fact that he is not a scientist. My anecdotal statements were presented as anecdotal, nothing more. I believe that I made it more clear than most who post hear that my statements are my opinions.
    This is a generalization: “People who are against the ban on plastic bags hate sea turtles and dolphins.”
    Of course that is not true anymore than it is true that progressives don’t care about people. I don’t presume that if you don’t agree with me on some issue that you are a bad person. Such statements sound self-righteous and intolerant and undermine one’s credibiltiy. I did not intend for my post to be contentious.

  20. Socialism: Ideas so great that they must be forced upon everyone.

    And while we’re speaking of generalizations, Stan said, “I try not to comment about that which I have inadequate knowledge” right before saying, “Those of us who spend every day of our entire careers studying such things are frustrated by those who read a couple of magazine articles and then presume to know better.”

    This kind of generalization is a blunt, unskilled tool which is designed to belittle the general public into silence, and it’s a slap in the face of these same people who are so often made to live under the rules dreamed up by the “experts” through means of the only other tool they know how to use: Socialism.

    Contrast this with Abraham Lincoln who said, “I am a firm believer in the people. When given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national challenge.”

    And yet, blatantly sophistic junk science has been the vehicle implemented by so many of those “experts” in the environmental slant that we the people have a damn hard time finding the truth.

    Stan, clean your own house before you go demeaning everyone else, because what may look like a speck in your eye looks a heck of a lot more like a log to most of us.

    -John T. Kartak
    Snohomish, Washington

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