City officials should not pass legislation as a test to see if a policy will be beneficial just because they think it might be best. Austin “bag ban” proponents, I’m talking to you.
In 2013, single-use plastic bags were banned in Austin in an effort to reduce pollution. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, just as the Austin city landfill is now filled with earth-harming “reusable” bags.
Once single-use plastic bags were outlawed within city limits, the new sturdier, bigger, multiuse plastic bags took their place. The issue is that these new, heftier bags are still being thrown away, causing heavier consequences than the previous bags.
The Austin Resource Recovery group was asked to evaluate the effectiveness of this ordinance and they discovered multiuse bags were actually worse for the environment overall than single-use. Ironically, these reusable bags are typically made of “non-recycled low-density polyethylene,” making them harder to break down.
The ordinance is even more damaging to the environment because each reusable bag leaves a larger carbon footprint than the single-use bags when discarded. In order for the reusable bag to be less harmful than the single-use, every bag would have to be used around 4-12 times. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
People are purchasing the more expensive reusable bag just to throw away later, which costs them more than the single-use option. Not only is the environment now slightly worse for wear, but consumers and businesses are losing money due to the unnecessary ban on bags.
Stores in Austin are losing customers because of the ridiculous ban. Shoppers are choosing to go out of their way to avoid the ban by going to neighboring towns. A city should not be able to ban a good just because it may not be beneficial, especially without proper evidence showing the policy would help.
The problem comes down to personal responsibility. It is not a matter of what type of bag the city should allow the market to sell and its people to purchase. Rather, it is a matter of whether or not residents properly recycle or reuse their bags rather than simply throwing them away.
Offering incentives to businesses rather than punishments is a better way to ensure that companies do all they can to recycle. Incentives grow businesses while helping the environment, making them mutually beneficial.
No one should have to pass legislation just to get people to throw away their trash correctly. The city should educate its people on how to properly recycle instead of wasting time and money passing useless ordinances that backfire and do more harm than good.
Many will do their best to properly recycle their garbage once the public is aware of the environmental benefit and monetary incentive of recycling.