Washington environmental expert: Plastic bag ban does more harm than good

Nov 29, 2018, 6:24 PM
plastic bag ban, environmental speech...
Plastic lines the beach in Tauranga, New Zealand in 2011. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)
(AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)

Environmental advocates in Washington are pushing for a statewide plastic bag ban like the ordinances in Seattle and Tacoma — but one environmental writer disputes the effectiveness of such a ban on ridding the world’s oceans of plastic waste.

Todd Myers, director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that a plastic bag ban actually creates more problems for the environment than it solves. It’s an argument he outlined in a Tacoma News Tribune editorial two years ago, and one he said that ecological activists in the Pacific Northwest don’t want to hear.

“Working in the environment, being the guy who says banning plastic is bad for the environment gets me a lot of weird looks,” he joked.

RELATED: Ban on plastic bags belongs in China, not Washington

This is because environmentalists “become emotionally attached to particular policies, and then when you tell them that that policy doesn’t actually help the planet, they stick with their emotion rather than the data,” Myers said.

He observed that the exception to this is money-saving environmental policies such as energy conservation, which people are happy to embrace for the financial benefits.

Plastic bag ban advocates argue that the measure is necessary to help de-pollute the world’s oceans. However, Myers pointed out, most of the plastic clogging ocean waters did not come from the U.S.

“Sri Lanka, which is basically a small island off of India, puts five times as much plastic into the ocean as the entire United States,” Myers stated.

While he is all for bringing the U.S.’s plastic pollution rate down to zero, Myers wants to do so in a way that ensures “the solution isn’t worse than the disease.”

As Myers noted, ironically, a person who carries a reusable cotton tote bag at the grocery store instead of single-use plastic bags would actually need to use the cotton bag 300 times to break even for the amount of pollution caused by the production of one cotton bag.

Growing cotton requires fertilizer, which runs into rivers, causing a process called eutrophication, during which oxygen is removed from the water. Eutrophication creates “dead zones” in bodies of water, where organisms cannot survive due to the low level of oxygen.

“At the end of the day, plastic does use less energy to make, and it does cause less impact on water pollution,” Myers said.

Cleaning up the dead zones of eutrophication in bodies of water is far more crucial than enacting plastic bag bans in the United States, Myers said.

“Banning plastic bags would exacerbate the worst problem and not solve the problem in the ocean,” he argued.

A common argument made by plastic bag ban proponents is that very few single-use plastic bags are actually recycled after they are used to carry purchases. However, Myers said, this statistic does not count the plastic bags that people reuse for purposes that render them ineligible for recycling, such as to carry food, garbage, or dog waste on a walk. Reusing the bags is greener than using them just one time.

“The advocates of this ban know why people don’t recycle bags, and they know that it’s because they reuse them,” he said. “So saying that only a small percentage are recycled, I think, is intentionally misleading — it’s dishonest on their part.”

Those who favor paper bags over fabric bags have no reason to feel bad either, according to Myers, as the trees used for paper in the United States are grown specifically for that purpose.

“When you use a piece of paper, you are not destroying a forest — you are actually giving an economic incentive for a forest to remain,” he said. “Because if they don’t grow trees in the crop … they will cut down those trees and replace them.”

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Seattle lawyer...
Dori Monson

Dori exclusive: Seattle lawyer once investigated in rapist husband’s case now a local judge

The wife of a Seattle lawyer convicted in five separate attacks a decade ago is now a sitting municipal court judge in Lake Forest Park.
16 hours ago
ethnic studies...
Dori Monson

Dori: Upcoming book reveals ‘toxic liar’ led Seattle schools’ ethnic studies program

“Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education” is a shocking expose that will come as a surprise to many.
2 days ago
vaccinated students...
Dori Monson

Dori: Oops! Maple Valley school pulls back on ‘VIP’ list for vaccinated students

After “VIP seating” that came with “an added privilege” for COVID-vaccinated students, the Maple Valley school has reversed its decision.
2 days ago
state capitol, House, anti-gun bills...
Dori Monson

Dori: Keep an eye on scores of anti-gun bills in Olympia

State lawmakers consider nearly 30 anti-gun bills, some of which attempt to bypass a statute that preserves uniform gun laws in the state.
3 days ago
Crime, hit and run...
Dori Monson

Dori: Soft on crime policies from state Democrats have tragic consequences

Washington state Democrats in the Legislature have made it open season for car thefts and the tragic consequences that can ensue.
3 days ago
Inslee, climate, vaccine requirements, election fraud...
Dori Monson Show

Gov. Inslee could be in ‘early stages of another presidential run,’ political watchdog theorizes

Gov. Jay Inslee is giving a political watchdog reason to believe he is considering a bid for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Washington environmental expert: Plastic bag ban does more harm than good