According to extrapolated Environmental Protection Agency data, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide annually (Roach 2003). Across the USA, many cities joined the latest environmental trend and banned plastic bags. “Concerned about the amount of plastic that reaches our oceans and the impact on wildlife, communities have decided that banning [plastic] bags is a simple and environmentally responsible approach” (Myers 2012). Plastic grocery bags are banned in many Californian cities including Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Long Beach, whilst other cities such as Washington DC have opted for a tax, or ‘plastax’, on plastic bags (Logomasini 2011; Herman 2012). Moreover, 6 billion plastic bags are used across the UK annually and there is no doubt that they cause environmental problems such as litter and marine pollution, they also deplete oil (Hickman 2011). Resultantly, the British government and the British Research Council ordered supermarkets to reduce their usage of plastic bags by 50% by 2009 (Edwards and Fry 2011, p.11). Furthermore, in 2008, China started to ban stores from offering free plastic bags, and plastic packaging bans are even being considered in places as far off as India, the Philippines and Mauretania (BBC 2013; New 2011).
As this essay argues, if plastic bags, specifically high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bags, are re-used and recycled then they are environmentally preferable to all other bags including paper bags and cotton bags. Plastic bags are actually the most environmentally friendly option so long as they are re-used and recycled. Misinformation is the reason why most people believe that plastic bags are the worst option for the environment. Los Angles is guilty of banning plastic supermarket bags without even presenting any quantitative evidence (Agresti 2012). Note that this does not mean plastic bags have no environmental costs but when determining the environmental costs and benefits of different bags we must honestly present the science. Science is simply not on the side of those who claim that cotton, paper and biodegradable bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags.
Plastic Bags are Bad for the Environment: The Evidence
As the argument of the plastic bag critic goes, humans have become dependent on plastic for bags, packaging and products, thus reducing our use of plastic bags is an easy target to begin overcoming our addiction to plastic. Plastic bag critics argue that plastic bags have a multitude of environmental consequences including litter, pollution, the ‘Pacific garbage patch’, wildlife issues and landfill problems. This essay will now highlight the major evidence for each of these alleged problems of plastic bags.
Plastic is a petroleum product, by making plastic bags we accelerate the depletion of our valuable fossil fuels like oil and pump more carbon emissions into the atmosphere. According to the Natural Environment website, 60 to 100 million barrels of oil are required to manufacture a year’s worth of plastic bags worldwide (New 2011).
Because plastic bags are lightweight, they are easily carried by wind and water. Resultantly, plastic bags litter streets and natural areas, and often clog up drainage systems and therefore contribute to flooding. In 2002 in Australia, 120 million garbage bags ended up as litter (Wilks 2006, p.11).
‘Pacific Garbage Patch’
A major argument against plastic bags is the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ or trash vortex. Over the last several decades, plastic waste has been dumped into the sea and, due to the Pacific currents, this plastic waste has swirled into a giant mass (Werthmann 2007, p.3). The majority of marine debris in this garbage patch consists of plastics; plastic comprises 90% of the floating debris and 60-80% of the overall refuse (Derraik 2002, p.843; Gregory and Ryan 1997, pp.49-66). In 2009, the New York Times reported that the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ was twice the size of Texas (Logomasini 2011). The Environment California Research and Policy Centre claims that plastic in the area near the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ outweighs the amount of plankton by as much as 6% (Logomasini 2011). Researchers estimate that it could take centuries for all this plastic to break up (Werthmann 2007, p.2).
Aesthetically, the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ is ugly, it is not pleasing to look at. As Israel (2010) reports, a plastic bag was even discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean floating near the historic wreck site of the RMS Titanic. The plastic bag near the Titanic shipwreck was described as being “totally unexpected” and “it had a profound effect” on all who saw it (Israel 2010). The ‘Pacific garbage patch’ also poses health problems to sea life as well as a hazardous threat to the natural oceanic environment. Moreover, if marine animals ingest this plastic then plastic may end up in the food chain and be ingested by humans (Werthmann 2007, p.3).
A lot of plastic waste is blown or washed into the sea where it remains for a long time, breaks down into smaller bits and threatens sea creatures who ingest it and then choke or suffer ill health. According to Clean-up Australia, roughly 1 million sea-birds and 100,000 sea turtles die every year because they either mistake plastic bags for food or get strangled in them (Wilks 2006, p.12). Furthermore, fish, in the classic case, may get stuck in beer/soda plastic ringlets (Werthmann 2007, p.3). Birds are also at risk from plastic invading their ecosystem and causing them ill health. A University of British Columbia study by Avery-Gomm et al (2012) discovered that the number of beached northern fulmars (migratory seabirds related to the albatross) that had bellies full of plastic had rose to 93% and this was a significant increase compared to 1980. As much as “40% of the premature deaths of innocent Albatross chicks in Midway Atoll are from plastics in the regurgitated food the parents provide their young” (Weiss 2006 cited in Werthmann 2007, p.3). Even Zebu cows in India are mistakenly eating plastic bags (BBC 2002).
Most importantly, for the arguments against plastic bags, is the fact that plastic is not biodegradable and is nearly impossible to get rid of once produced, plastic always remains plastic (Werthmann 2007, p.2). According to the Natural Environment, it takes at least 400 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade (New 2011). After plastic bags are dumped into landfills it takes hundreds of years to decompose and breakdown (Roach 2003). Moreover, as plastic bags decompose, tiny toxics seep into soils, lakes, rivers and the oceans (Roach 2003). Plastic bags are being dumped in landfills and left there to rot, damage the environment and harm any bird that digests it. All our landfills may eventually fill up if we keep dumping all our rubbish, and especially plastic rubbish, into them.
Policy Recommendations of the Plastic Bag Critics
Resultantly, critics of plastic bags propose that:
- We switch to biodegradable bags, paper bags and, most preferably, cotton bags to stop harming the environment with plastic;
- Some propose a tax on plastic bags, and some cities have obliged;
- Some even go so far as to suggest that we should ban plastic bags all together, again some cities have followed through.
Misinformation: Why Plastic Bags are not Bad for the Environment
As this essay will now explain, plastic bags are not bad for the environment, in fact, plastic bags are the most environmentally friendly option. All we need to do is use plastic bags, re-use them as much as possible and then recycle them.
Biodegradable Bags are Bad for the Environement
Biodegradable plastic bags do not have a magic ingredient that makes them self-destruct and break up into tiny pieces made of simple molecules that bugs and fungi can happily munch up (Pearce 2009). The European Plastics Recyclers Association warned that biodegradable plastic bags have the potential to do more harm than good for the environment (Pearce 2009). Biodegradable bags are actually oxo-degradable plastics, that is, plastics made to degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight (Pearce 2009). Biodegradable plastic bags do not degrade away to nothing. The supermarket Tesco believe that biodegradable plastic bags decompose within 18 months without any negative impact on the environment (Pearce 2009). However, whether biodegradable plastic bags decompose with no harm to the environment depends mostly on where biodegradable plastic bags end up (Pearce 2009). If these bags get buried in a landfill they may not degrade at all because there is no light or oxygen (Pearce 2009).
Research commissioned by the Biodegradable Products Institute found that breakdown is also dependent on temperature and humidity, cold weather slows down decomposition and high humidity virtually stops the process (Pearce 2009). Moreover, most manufacturers of biodegradable plastic bags claim they only put tiny amounts of metals into biodegradable plastic bags but the Biodegradable Products Institute discovered that one brand contained extremely high levels of lead and cobalt meaning the plastic leftovers may be highly toxic (Pearce 2009).
Research that was left unpublished by the government for a number of years suggests that plastic bags may not be an eco-villain but actually an unsung hero (Hickman 2011). A report by the Environment Agency discovered that plastic bags (HDPE bags) are actually greener than supposedly low impact alternatives like paper bags or cotton bags (Hickman 2011). The Environment Agency report by Edwards and Fry (2011, p.33) calculated the ‘global warming potential’ of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bags, biodegradable bags, a ‘bag for life’ made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), non-wove polypropylene bags and cotton bags based on their extraction of raw materials, production processes, transport, disposal and recycling uses. Plastic bags, re-used 40% of the time as bin-liners, are roughly 173 times less damaging to the planet than ‘eco-friendly’ cotton bags and are 4 times less damaging to the planet than paper bags (Edwards and Fry 2011, p.61). Basically, to balance out the tiny environmental impact of a plastic bag used once for shopping and re-used 40% of the time as bin-liners, consumers must use the same cotton bag 173 times or use a paper bag at least 4 times. Most paper bags are used only once though and one study found that cotton bags were used only 51 times before being discarded, making them both worse than a plastic bag used only once and re-used 40% of the time as a bin-liner (Hickman 2011). Edwards and Fry (2011, p.21) reveal that supermarket shoppers in the Republic of Ireland do not re-use paper bags for shopping.
Banning plastic bags will increase energy use because plastic bags are the most energy efficient form of grocery bag (Myers 2012). Plastic bags are cheap because relatively small amounts of raw materials and energy are required to produce them (Agresti 2012). Plastic bags are highly energy and water efficient as well as sanitary (Logomasini 2011). As Logomasini (2011) describes, a life-cycle study by ‘Use Less Stuff’ tracked the cradle-to-grave environmental impact of bags and concluded that plastic bags:
- Generate 39% less greenhouse gas emissions than regular paper bags;
- Require 6% of the water necessary to make paper bags;
- Consume 71% less energy during production than paper bags;
- And produce 1/5th the amount of solid waste compared to paper bags.
Edwards and Fry’s (2011, pp.33-41) Environment Agency report found that plastic bags were better than paper bags in terms of global warming potential, abiotic depletion, acidification, eutrophication, human toxicity, fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity, marine aquatic ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity and photochemical oxidation.
Let’s take a closer look at the assumption made in the Environment Agency’s report, ‘a plastic bag used only once for shopping and re-used 40% of the time as a bin-liner ’. Most plastic bags are re-used for purposes including and other than carrying shopping meaning that cotton bags must be used at least 346 times to match the environmental impact of a plastic bag used twice for shopping and re-used 40% of the time as bin-liners. Using a cotton bag this many times obviously necessitates washing it to remove bacteria, dirt and germs, emitting even more carbon emissions and using up water, and that is assuming the cotton bag does not break after being used multiple times.
Research at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University measured bacteria in a sample of reusable bags and discovered that many contained dangerous bacteria such as coliform (found in ½ the bags) and E. coli (found in 12% of bags) (Logomasini 2011). The researchers also “noted that consumers reported that they rarely wash the bags in an attempt to control the development of such pathogens” (Logomasini 2011).
... More Problems with Cotton Bags
Most cotton bags come from China and some have been found to contain lead which can seep into groundwater after disposal and cause long-term health problems (Grynbaum 2010). Furthermore, the cotton bags that are so heavily promoted as ‘green’ may be bought as a fashion item, some people may even buy multiple amounts of these bags to look ‘trendy’ or to promote the ‘fact’ that they are ‘green’. The problem with one person buying multiple amounts of cotton bags is that it becomes less likely that the average cotton bag will be re-used enough times to make them less damaging to the planet as plastic bags.
Misinformation on the ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’
As the critics of plastic bags claim, plastic bags helped create the ‘Pacific garbage patch’. Although this may be true, the magnitude of the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ and consequent environmental impact is tremendously smaller than plastic bag critics claim. Angelicque White (2011), an Oregon State University oceanography professor reveals that there has been much misinformation spread on the ‘Pacific garbage patch’. Some plastic bag critics claim that the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ is twice the size of Texas but this is simply false, the actual size of the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ is less than 1% of the geographic size of Texas (White 2011). Moreover, research by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution suggests that the size of the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ has remained the same since the mid-1980s (Logomasini 2011). White (2011) claims that “there is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists”. Also, as White (2011) reports, the patch is not really a dense island of trash, “you might see a piece of Styrofoam or a bit of fishing line float by at random intervals after hours or 20 minutes, but greater than 90% of the plastic was less than 10 millimetres in diameter”. Additionally, White (2011) notes that the amount of plastic in the ocean has not been increasing since the 1980s. Furthermore, “the plastic in these areas do not outweigh plankton” (Logomasini 2011).
The ‘Pacific garbage patch’ may pose some problems for aesthetics, pollution and marine animals’ health but the size of the problem has been exaggerated and, crucially, the role that plastics play in this is much smaller than plastic bag critics argue.
More importantly, if we focus on the damage that plastic bags do to the ocean rather than the damage that other debris does then we are making a terrible mistake. Marine litter consists of all sorts of materials and products but lightweight plastics float and thus gives the impression that the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ is mainly made up of plastic. According to the United Nations Environment Program (cited in Plastic Packaging 2013), roughly 70% of marine debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This makes plastic bags a blessing in disguise because when plastics do get dumped in the ocean we can identify and get to them more easily than other materials in order to clean them up.
Does Not Harm Wildlife
Advocates of banning plastic bags often cite “impacts on marine life and mammals, but they rarely attempt to quantify that impact” (Myers 2012). Many attempts to actually quantify those marine impacts are simply false or misleading (Myers 2012). For example, a Washington state city council was told that the ecological impacts of plastic bags include over 1 million sea-birds and 100,000 marine mammals killed by either plastic ingestions or entanglement (Myers 2012). In fact, this claim about harm to marine mammals and sea-birds has absolutely nothing to do with plastic bags (Myers 2012). NOAA corrected the claim and revealed that they “are so far unable to find a scientific reference for this figure” and that the only study they can find does not deal with plastic bags or even marine debris but active fishing gear bycatch (Myers 2012). The Times of London in 2008 quoted a Greenpeace biologist saying “it’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags [because] the evidence shows just the opposite” (Myers 2012).
Let us consider what plastics are causing damage to marine wildlife. If we argue that marine wildlife is harmed by the toxicity of plastics breaking down in our oceans then we cannot assume that plastic bags are solely to blame. Any type of similar plastic product would also cause the same release of toxins. For example, plastic toys, computers or mobile phones. Maybe, rather than plastic shopping bags, it is plastic product wrapping that is causing the most harm. If we are to tax or ban plastic shopping bags because they release toxins when dumped into the oceans then why should we not tax or ban all products made out of similar plastics?
Misinformation About Landfills
Landfills, by definition, are not supposed to biodegrade, they are meant to collect garbage and mummify it (Rathje and Murphy 2001, p.112). Because of popular culture and misinformation, many believe that landfills are like giant compost heaps and that their waste eventually wastes away. However, modern landfills are actually designed to minimize the breakdown of the waste they contain (Plastic Packaging 2013). Most garbage does not biodegrade in landfills. Modern landfills are a tribute to sanitary engineering, landfills do not really damage the environment because they have composite liners, clay caps and runoff collections systems (Agresti 2012). Modern landfills also pose few problems after they are closed as they can be used for air fields, parks, commercial development and even nature conservatories can be built over them (Agresti 2012).
Most organic materials in landfills take hundreds of years to decompose (Agresti 2012). “Many people are ill-informed of this fact […] because they have been misled about this subject since their youth” (Agresti 2012). Rathje and Murphy (2001, pp.101-114) studied numerous landfills and discovered that:
- Plastics only account for 16% of the total volume of landfills;
- Tightly compacted contents of landfills create low-oxygen environments that inhibit decomposition;
- The dynamics of a landfill are basically the opposite of what most people think;
- Landfills mummify rather than compost;
- Basically all the organic material from the 1950s in a Phoenix landfill remained readily identifiable, even carrot tops remained easily identifiable;
- Much of the organic material entombed in an ancient Roman landfill that was 2000 years old had not fully decomposed.
Resultantly, plastic bags, when mummified or entombed in a landfill, will not harm the environment any more than any other piece of garbage. Additionally, landfills are used to level out uneven land to build on top of so the fact that plastic bags do not biodegrade actually helps landfills fulfil this duty (Rathje and Murphy 2001, p.90).
Evidence suggests that banning plastic bags may actually “harm the environment, yielding little benefit to wildlife while significantly increasing carbon emissions and other environmental impacts” (Myers 2012). Plastic bags “are not the environmental scourge they are made out to be and banning them does not reduce waste” (Holmes 2012). There is no conclusive evidence that plastic bag bans reduce litter. Actually, the percentage of plastic bag litter rose from 0.6% to 0.64% in the year following San Francisco’s plastic bag ban (Holmes 2012). Plastic bags only account for 1% of our litter stream (Holmes 2012). Litter is a disgusting blight in our towns and for our natural environment but it is not caused by plastic bags, it is primarily caused by irresponsible behaviour (Plastic Packaging 2013). A lot more than plastic bags must be targeted to have any noticeable impact on litter (Holmes 2012). Litter control efforts in recent decades have done far more to limit plastic litter than all-out plastic bans. Keep America Beautiful (KAB), formed in 1953 to fight litter, demonstrates that private and voluntary efforts can have a dramatic impact on litter reduction (Logomasini 2011). KAB educates the public with public service announcements and mobilizing businesses, individuals and local governments around the nation to implement litter control programs (Logomasini 2011). KAB claims that litter in the US has fallen by 61% since 1969, which may even explain why the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ has not grown much in recent decades (Logomasini 2011).
Another obviously detrimental effect of a plastic bag ban is that plastic industry workers will lose jobs as markets shift to supposedly environmentally better products (Logomasini 2011). Robert Bateman, president of Roplast Industries, a manufacturer of plastic bags (including re-usable bags) claims the advantage of plastic bags over paper bags has become too significant for store owners to ignore as it costs 1 cent for a standard plastic grocery bag, whereas a paper bag costs 4 cents (Roach 2003). Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, strong, plentiful, easy to carry and easy to store that they have captured at least 80% of the grocery store market since they were introduced over 25 years ago (Roach 2003). Consumers, therefore, will also lose the convenience of plastic bags.
Moreover, if consumers do not use plastic bags to carry their goods once bought from a shop then they must either carry them or put them in their own bag, this will make it harder to detect shoplifting. Instead of a shop’s security guard looking for consumers without the store’s plastic bag, security guards must eye every consumer to ensure they have not shop-lifted. This will decrease firms’ profits as their revenues fall due to more shop-lifting and their costs rise because they must pay for tightened security. In times of a recession do we really need to increase firms’ costs, force firms out of business and raise unemployment all to stop producing plastic bags when the more environmentally friendly option is actually to use plastic bags and then recycle them?
Many plastic bags are re-used as book bags, lunch bags for kids going to school, picking up after pets and lining bins and trashcans (Roach 2003). At least ½ of all plastic bags are re-used for these purposes (Myers 2012). 9 out of 10 US consumers re-use plastic bags for these reasons (Holmes 2012). Recycling plastic bags and re-using them is clearly the answer to the problem of what to do with a plastic bag that has served its initial purpose carrying shopping. Plastic bags are 100% recyclable (Holmes 2012). Recycling is addressing the issue of landfills. Plastic can be melted and re-formed, and plastic is sterilized when it is melted so it can be re-made into other plastic products. Many companies such as Trex, a building firm, have a high demand for plastic because it can be recycled and turned into building materials (Roach 2003). Building firms can use plastic bags to wrap around and insulate underground pipes.
An argument against recycling plastics is that there are many different types of plastics and that each different type of plastic must be recycled on its own. But, it is now becoming easier to recycle different types of plastics. A 2011 study, reported by Plastic Packaging (2013) discovered that 94% of Americans have access to recycle plastic bottles and 40% also have access to recycle plastic containers, yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids. Many large grocery stores and retail chains offer bins to collect plastic bags and wrappers to recycle (Plastic Packaging 2013). ACC (cited in Plastic Packaging 2013) found that, in the United States in 2010, 2.6 billion pounds of plastic bottles, 1 billion pounds of plastic bags and film and 820 million pounds of non-bottled rigid plastics were recycled.
Political Economy: Follow the Money
Barry Turner, chief executive of the Packaging and Films Association representing plastic bag manufacturers, suggests the Environment Agency’s report discussed earlier in this essay was suppressed because it did not give the right answers to support the current political thrust of environmental protection (Hickman 2011). The report exists “amid an on-going controversy over plastic bags and plans by Wales to introduce a 5p plastic bag tax” (Hickman 2011). An unbiased analysis of the true environmental costs of plastic bags does not go ahead because the political symbolism of banning the bags is powerful (Myers 2012). Plastic bag critics tend to completely ignore the science that indicates plastic bag bans may actually harm the environment (Myers 2012).
This is a massive problem in the fight against misinformation about plastic bags. A simple application of game theory tells us that the government do not have an incentive to educate people about plastic bags being the best option for the environment. If all political parties agree to tell the truth about plastic bags then the environment will be better off and no party will lose any votes during elections as they will all hold the same view on the environment. However, this agreement cannot hold because if all political parties agree to tell the truth about plastic bags then at least one party will cheat and argue that plastic bags are bad for the environment. This rogue party, during elections, will then take all the voters who, after years of being bombarded with misinformation, believe that plastic bags are bad for the environment. All parties will realize this and therefore all parties will take the easy route and maximize their votes by arguing that plastic bags are bad for the environment.
Also, lobbying groups and activists are using misinformation to their advantage. For example, the Northwest Grocery Association does not only endorse a plastic bag ban but spends money lobbying for one, and it is unlikely that this is for environmental reasons because the charges on paper and cotton bags that accompanies plastic bag bans goes straight back to the grocers (Holmes 2012).
As this essay has shown, all bags have an environmental impact but the best option for the environment is to use plastic bags, re-use them until they cannot be used anymore and then recycle them. After they have been re-used we can send plastic bags to landfills and, given the fact that they are not biodegradable, they will help to fill the landfill so that we can eventually build on top of it. Cotton bags are worse for the environment because they cause considerably more carbon emissions when being produced and distributed compared to plastic bags and bacteria builds up in them so they must be washed (wasting yet more water and energy). As for the policy recommendations for consumers, manufactures of plastic bags, firms and the government, the following policies are proposed:
- Consumers must remember to re-use plastic bag(s) by taking them on multiple shopping trips until they cannot be used anymore;
- Re-use plastic bags for purposes other than shopping, for example, re-use plastic bags as bin liners;
- Recycle plastic bags that cannot be re-used anymore;
- Avoid accepting additional plastic bags unless required;
- Recycle any plastic, not just plastic bags.
- Manufacturers of plastic bags could print advice on their plastic bags to remind consumers tore-use and recycle them.
- As for firms, they must engage in ‘source reduction’ or ‘light weighting’ and use more plastics to package their products. As highlighted by Logomasini (2011), plastic packaging is more energy efficient to make than other materials. It takes less lightweight plastic to package many products than alternative materials. For example, only 2 pounds of plastics is required to deliver roughly 10 gallons of beverages contrasted to 3 pounds of aluminium, 8 pounds of steel or more than 40 pounds of glass (Plastic Packaging 2013). Lighter packaging also means less fuel is used in transport. For instance, plastic bags conserve more fuel in shipping than paper bags (1 truckload for plastic bags versus 7 for paper bags) (Plastic Packaging 2013). This does not mean that firms can use an irresponsible amount of plastic to package each product, they must use the minimum amount of plastic packaging for their products, but it is plastic that they must use rather than other materials.
- Plastics engineers must continually innovate to do even more with less plastic. Light-weighting, by using more plastics for packaging, helps boost the environmental and economic efficiency of consumer product packaging. For example, since 1977, the weight of a 2 litre plastic soft drink bottle fell 31% from 68 grams to 47 grams per bottle (Plastic Packaging 2013). For 2 litre soft drink bottles alone this meant a saving of more than 180 million pounds of packaging in 2006 (Plastic Packaging).
- The government are required to educate agents so that they understand that plastic bags are the best option for the environment and then the government must incentivize agents to re-use plastic bags. The government can simply teach kids in primary school to re-use and recycle plastic bags, advertise this on television and force manufacturers of plastic bags to print advice on their plastic bags to re-use and recycle them.
It should finally be noted that some argue that plastic bags were never used before 1970 and thus we should return to this. However, we will then be left with the problems of using cotton bags (high levels of pollution when making the bag, bacteria and wasted water and energy). Plastic bags are not bad for the environment so long as they are re-used and, most importantly, recycled. Also, just because plastic bags were not used a generation ago does not mean we should return to the practices of that age, innovation can be beneficial for society and in the case of plastic bags, and ‘educated’ people, plastic bags actually help us protect the environment.
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