Doing the wrong thing for the right reason
The Australian commented on the plastic bags ban, in the context of a 2006 inquiry by the Productivity Commission into waste management. The report’s lead author said that “plastic bags are useful: hygienic, waterproof; they have multiple uses and functions.” The report stated that “plastic bags take up little landfill space and their inert characteristics can actually help to reduce a landfill’s potential for adverse environmental impacts.” Yet, because of a prevailing perception that the bags are bad for the environment, Coles and Woolworths decided to eliminate them. A recent study in the UK found that reusable bags need to be used 173 (!) times before they have a lower environmental impact than ordinary plastic bags. An economist from RMIT said that he was surprised that Coles and Woolworths decided to “deliberately pursue a policy that they know will reduce customer satisfaction”. Of course, we're advocates for sustainable environmental practices, but they need to be based on facts; the matter is too important to waste resources on ineffective initiatives. It's not plastic bags and plastic straws that have the biggest impact. Have you considered the tons of other waste generated by the supermarkets and fast food chains?