Happy Independence Day: now surrender your plastic bags. That was the message municipal regulators in the largest city in the Pacific Northwest delivered this week when they enacted a controversial ban on plastic bags.
The irony of the nanny state overreach on the solemn occasion--the birthday of a nation forged in freedom--was almost too much to stomach.
The efforts of Seattle's lawmakers are not unique; indeed, other west coast cities had already outlawed plastic bags. But it was the voices that stimulated the ban that made it so noxious. Enter the bag monster.
Unanimously approved last December, the ban's adoption was the cultivation of a fear-year effort by nanny state environmentalists. It only went into effect at the first of this month.
Proponents of the ban harped on environmental factoids that intimated the bags were a threat to the city's ecosystem. The actual science of pollution went unnoticed.
After San Francisco earned the ignominy of becoming the first American municipality to outlaw plastic bags in 2007, a survey of the city's litter found its share of plastics actually increased after the ban took effect.
Around the same time, a life cycle assessment study by the British government found plastic bags have a smaller environmental footprint than their paper alternatives.
The same is true here in America, where the recycling rate of plastic bags had grown nearly 25 percent between 2009 and 2010. That same year saw the recycling of more than 900 million pounds of post-consumer plastic bags and sacks.
By banning bags, Seattle has forced consumers to revert to paper bags, which generate 80 percent more waste than plastic alternatives, or adopt costly reusable bags, which cannot be recycled and are routinely found in scientific studies to be bacterial breeding grounds.
"Seattle's plastic bag ban will have an immediate negative impact on the wallets of Seattle shoppers and, ironically, the environment," Mark Daniels, chair of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said in a statement on the ban's July sunrise. "Seattleites will now be forced to purchase reusable bags which cannot be recycled, are predominately imported from China, and have been proven to harbor dangerous bacteria. Those interested in real solutions to reducing litter and protecting the environment should pursue scientifically sound, common sense policies – ones that encourage a comprehensive statewide recycling solution that addresses all forms of plastic bags, sacks and wraps."