A controversial ordinance in Manhattan Beach, California banning the use of plastic bags by retailers at the point of sale was struck down in the California Court of Appeals. The court decided that the government (Manhattan Beach in this case) cannot arbitrarily “ban” plastic bags without an environmental impact report proving that a ban is warranted. It sets a precedent for truth and fairness to rule as we tackle a key environmental issues in retail packaging.
The court found substantial evidence to support the argument that the ordinance may cause increased use of paper bags, which (the court stated) may have a significant negative impact on the environment, therefore an environmental impact report was required.
According to court documents: “We do not resolve the question of the ultimate merits of whether the plastic bag distribution ban should be implemented. All we are saying is that an environmental impact report must be prepared given that it can be fairly argued based on substantial evidence in the record that the ordinance may have a significant environmental impact.”
Paper or Plastic?
Our customers frequently ask us which is better for the environment. The environmental impact of either is small, but it is a good place for the retail community to demonstrate concern and to encourage sustainable practices such as recycling. If recycling is involved, then neither paper nor plastic bags constitute a huge negative impact, but with plastic coming out ahead in the measure of carbon footprint.
Paper bags are made from “trees”. In North America, companies like Weyerhaeuser, Georgia Pacific, and Bowater are in the business of growing trees for paper and construction products. These companies do not “slash and burn” like we have seen in the news from Asia, but instead practice sustainable forestry; not only because of the environment, but because it is a sustainable economic model. Pine trees grow quickly and are harvested from managed forests.
Plastic bags which are produced in the US are made from domestic natural gas, not foreign oil. Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, waste products must be removed. One key by-product is known as “Ethane”. The “Ethane” is converted into polyethylene which is then made into many products including plastic bags.
US plastic bags are made from a by-product of processing natural gas. Most foreign resins are still made from Middle-Eastern oil, including those “eco-friendly” reusable bags.
Remember seeing pictures of oil wells in Iraq and Saudi Arabia with those plumes of flame on top? That is the gas they have been burning off for years. Ever see one of those plumes on a US well?
Our infrastructure allows for the collection and processing of natural gas into plastic resin and other products such as fertilizers, while the infrastructure in Asia and the Middle East doesn’t (although they are working on it in Saudi Arabia). Even when the Saudis do make polyethylene available, it comes back to a dependence on foreign trade and not on domestic production.
Bottom line…Buy paper and plastics made in North America.
All of the Paper Bags that Nashville Wraps sells which are made in the US and Canada are sourced from North American forests and domestic recycled paper sources. All of the plastic bags we sell which are made in the US are sourced from either domestic natural gas and/or recycled plastics collected in the US.
Next blog article: Recycling Paper and Plastic Bags.
Director of Marketing