Blog: Morgan Hill Making Bad Decision on Plastic Bags

Paper is worse than plastic. Morgan Hill on wrong track.

Morgan Hill is making a bad choice in trying to ban plastic bags. It's one of those politically correct decisions that is based on bad science. If they did anything like this they should ban paper instead of plastic because plastic is the cleaner technology. Paper is the real problem.

Paper uses 14 million trees a year. It uses 20 times as much fresh water. It uses more energy to make than plastic. Paper adds more carbon to the environment to make than plastic. Paper uses more harsh chemicals than plastic. If you Google paper vs. plastic you will see what I'm talking about.

It's bad science to pick on plastic bags and pretend you are helping the environment. If you are a real environmentalist you need to look at science and make decisions based on the facts. The facts point to the opposite. Paper is worse than plastic. Ban paper if you are going to ban something.

Interestingly enough paper bags could become cleaner if they were to use hemp fibers instead of wood to make paper bags. Hemp fibers are 10 times as strong as wood and you could make paper thinner and stronger without cutting down trees. But you'd have to get the DEA to change their position to allow it.

But, for those who really want a solution to global warming, there is but one real issue to address, global population control. If Morgan Hill wants to really do something for the environment they should put a condom in every water bill. Every time a condom is used to prevent a pregnancy you are taking 44,000 tons of carbon out of the environment as compared to bringing yet another consumer into the world who wants to grow up, eat, drive a car, live in a house, and make more people. If you're not focused on population control you're not really addressing the problem.

I therefore urge Morgan Hill City Council to look at science and make a decision based on the facts rather than a feel good ordinance so they have the illusion of doing something when actually making it worse.

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Jim Westcott November 19, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Mark, You miss the point on so many different levels. Plastic shopping bags unfortunately end up in our creeks, the SF bay and eventually make their way into our coastal waters. Ask any kayaker that spends much time out there. Many have stories of finding shorebirds, sea otters and other wildlife tangled in plastic bags. Ask the regular Sierra Lamar searchers what they find in our creek corridors in overwhelming abundance. Reusable shopping bags are the best "environmental" option. Sadly, there will still be a need for disposable bags. The last I heard, that giant raft of trash in the Pacific is the size of Texas. I doubt you will find many paper bags in that flotilla. If you wanted to do something for the environment, you would instead encourage the Morgan Hill city council to approve the proposed ban on plastic bags and look at an increasing fee schedule for paper bags rather than the current 10 cents being considered. Sunnyvale's is going to change from 10 to 25 cents in 2014. Even that may have limited results. Jim Westcott Gilroy
Marc Perkel November 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I'm sure there is all kinds of trash that ends up in creeks including paper bags. I throw my plastic bags in the trash. If people are throwing trash in creeks that's a separate problem. Charging a tax for plastic bags doesn't remove them from the creeks. I can understand the push for reusable bags but I've read some articles about how many times they are used before they get thrown away and what they are made of (plastic, vinyl) and ask yourself how many bags are saved when many of the reusable bags are equivalent to hundreds of plastic bags. The question is - do you want a real solution or a feel good solution?
Jim Westcott November 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
The "real environmentalists" are collecting the plastic bags they do acquire, periodically stuffing them into a big ball and putting them in with the recycling. That would be the big blue bin in your back yard. Nearly all of the reusable bags we have are made from Polypropylene, most likely recycled soda bottles. They are also recyclable (again the big blue bin) and we haven't had to dispose of any yet. Maybe if you tried them you would discover they work quite well rather than regurgitating something you read on the internet. BTW, the proposed fee is for paper bags. Plastic grocery bags may have seemed like a good idea when they first came out but they have proven to be a really bad idea in today's world. There are loads of communties in the bay area and elsewhere getting on board with plastic bag bans. I applaud the Morgan Hill city council for giving this careful consideration and hope they choose to go forward with it.
John November 27, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Forget the controversy between plastic and paper. Ban all bags. Bring your own. San Jose has done it, MH and Gilroy and everyone should follow suit. What is so hard about bringing your own bag(s)? It does take a little while to get used to, but such a ban will minimize the "plastic islands" in the ocean and all of the negative impacts that go with paper. Ban 'em all!
John November 28, 2012 at 08:56 AM
You still seem to miss the point. All of Europe can't really be wrong, can it?
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt December 05, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Couldn't agree more. If there's a "feel good" aspect to any of this, it's that people like to feel good that they'll have a bag provided for them when they go to the grocery store. It's completely superfluous, though. You can use the same canvas bag for twenty years or more. My mother (being a hippy and all) has been using the same canvas bags for more than 25 years now. Unfortunately, every time a plastic bag ban is considered, we have to listen to people howl about how it's tyranny and something about a nanny state and blah blah blah. That's what freedom has been reduced to by the troglodytes of the world: getting plastic bags at the grocery store. Idiots.
Phil Cooper December 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Most paper is still produced with an acid process and when such paper breaks down in the environment it acidifies and essentially poisons the ground. Although plastic bags in the environment look unappealing, on the whole they cause less damage. Moreover, when exposed to sunlight, plastic shopping bags break down and disintegrate in less than a year.
Phil Cooper December 10, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Yes, John, all of Europe CAN and IS wrong on many points. That's why many Europeans escaped and came to the Americas.
Marc Perkel December 10, 2012 at 02:19 PM
One think I've been wondering is that people talk about "carbon sequestration" to isolate carbon from the environment. Seems to me that if they buried plastic in old limestone caves that would take carbon put of the environment for a very long time.
Marc Perkel December 10, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Another point - if they ever built a paper plant in the Bay Area, which they would never do, they would be banning paper bags instead of plastic. If you've ever been within 10 miles of a paper plant you know what I'm talking about.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt December 10, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Better still, if we don't extract the petroleum required to make the plastic bags in the first place, we're doing a better job still of protecting the environment. The goal here is sustainability, and neither plastic nor paper bags help us attain that goal. If everyone used the same canvas bags for 20 years at a stretch. THAT would be something close to sustainable. As far carbon sequestration, that usually refers either to capturing carbon from our industrial processes before it enters the atmosphere, or removing carbon from the atmosphere. If a plastic bag has already been produced and shipped to the grocery store, then the carbon involved in its production and shipment has already entered the atmosphere. At which point there are only a handful of ways of dealing with it, like planting more trees (forests are excellent carbon sinks), or, a method that's rather controversial but one that I'm hoping can be quite effective at not just leveling off atmospheric CO2 levels but actually bringing them closer to 350 ppm, iron fertilization. I encourage you to check out that method.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt December 10, 2012 at 05:46 PM
False dichotomy, Phil. The choice isn't between paper or plastic. It's between sustainable and unsustainable. Disposable grocery bags are unsustainable. Canvas bags that can be reused over the course of decades are sustainable.
Marc Perkel December 10, 2012 at 05:49 PM
For what it's worth plastic can be made out of any organic molecules. You can make plastic from hay if you want. It's only made from oil now as a way of using byproducts of the oil industry but it's not tied to oil in any way.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt December 10, 2012 at 05:53 PM
You still have the CO2 output associated with the production and the shipping of those "organic plastic bags" to take into account, and, again, the goal is sustainability. We can't achieve that if we're wasting our resources producing something as superfluous as disposable grocery bags. It's not any sort of burden to require that people use the same canvas bags every time they go shopping. Even if those bags only last a year, you've cut down on the energy required to produce disposable bags and the waste and landfill space (or, as is more often the case with plastic products, the ocean space) by more than 90%. That's some pretty good progress, IMO.
Marc Perkel December 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Paper bags have more carbon than plastic bags. And when you add in the energy it take to grow trees, harvest trees, and process trees into paper paper bags use more oil per bag than plastic.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt December 10, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I think we're talking past each other here. I'm not advocating paper bags as an alternative to plastic. I'm advocating reusing the same bags for years, or even decades, on end. THAT would be sustainable.
Jim Westcott December 10, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Limestone caves are created by water. Anything leaching out of plastic put in a cave would end up in the ground water. The least offensive way to dispose of plastic bags is recycling. Some of us will happily take our reusable bags to shop with. For those of you that cannot be bothered, we would just rather arm you with a paper bag than a plastic one because we cannot trust you to recycle that bag.
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