Destruction caused by plastic bags have been much exaggerated in recent times. Statistics that back up justifications of bag bans and taxes are more often than not erroneous and plain wrong. We have underlined below some of the most popular and interesting myths associated with plastic bags:
MYTH: Most proposed bag bans and taxes employ statistics not based on solid facts and figures. These statistics are based on a simple assumption that plastic bags are only used once before being dumped.
TRUTH: The truth is that many people reuse plastic grocery bags more than once. These bags are used as trash bin liners, for picking pet litter, as lunch sacks, etc. Recycling plastic bags is no big deal as most grocery stores provide plastic bag recycling bins.
MYTH: Recycling plastic bags is expensive.
TRUTH: Plastic recycling is a simple and energy efficient process that is quite low on cost. Products like composite lumber and new bags can be easily made from the recycled bags. Plastic bags and other plastic film packaging can even be included as a part of curbside recycling.
MYTH: Plastic bags are unsightly and are one of the major sources of litter. Thus, banning or taxing plastic bags will minimize litter and reduce environmental hazards.
TRUTH: Plastic bags form less than one percent of all litter. In fact, cigarette butts, chocolate wrappers, fast food packaging, etc., are greater evils that lead to litter as compared to plastic bags.
Since plastic bags only contribute to less than 1% of all litter, banning or taxing them is meaningless and will have no substantial effect. Public education, recycling programs, and proper waste disposal should be advocated rather than these mindless bans or taxes.
MYTH: Plastic bags take a lot of landfill space.
TRUTH: We all know now that plastic bags can be recycled at a very low cost. And those plastic bags that still end up in a landfill, take up less than one percent of landfill space. If we go by data gathered, an average person uses less than 326 plastic grocery every year - the total weight being about the same as a phone book or two. The average person therefore generates around 1500 lbs of waste/year, including the recyclable waste.
The major consumer of landfill space is not plastic bags but paper products. Thus, putting bans on plastic bags or imposing any kind of taxes on them will only increase the use of paper bags and result in more waste going to the landfill.
Paper Bags are Better
MYTH: Paper bags are environmental-friendly and a better choice than plastic.
TRUTH: Production of paper bags, even the ones that are recycled, require many times more energy than plastic. Paper production jeopardizes the environment to a greater degree through air and water pollution when compared to plastics. Besides, paper bags weigh more than plastic bags, and require 10 times the fuel when it comes to transportation.
Another major disadvantage of paper bags is that they can be easily contaminated with oils, greases, food waste, etc., thus contaminating entire batches of recycling. On the other hand, plastic bags can be cleaned and contaminants, if any, can be easily eliminated prior to recycling.
MYTH: Heavyweight canvas, cotton, & polypropylene reusable bags are better options than plastic bags.
TRUTH: While these reusable bags can be used for various day-to-day applications, their environmental impact needs proper scrutiny and research. Most of these plastic bag alternatives are made in China, where pollution and safety standards are known to be somewhat lax.
Moreover, disposable bags can serve many other functions that reusable bags simply cannot.