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Another Voice: Banning plastic bags will hurt businesses, consumers

By Angela Logomasini

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hopes to gain some green points by passing a statewide plastic shopping bag ban. He seems oblivious to the serious adverse impacts on small businesses and their employees, as well as on consumers and the environment.

There are 30 companies in New York State that manufacture plastic bags with 1,500 employees that will suffer if the ban takes effect, a representative for the Business Council of New York State pointed out in the New York Business Journal. There are also companies with employees that distribute these bags, many or all of which will be out of business thanks to Cuomo and his political allies.

Consider the impact on Eli Amsel, who spent nearly 40 years building a bag distribution company, selling mostly plastic bags and some paper bags. Inspired by his grandfather, who was a Holocaust survivor, Amsel’s success is an American dream soon to be destroyed by Cuomo’s proposed ban.

Unfortunately, Amsel and other distributors can’t simply switch over to selling paper bags. Paper is much heavier and takes up four to eight times the storage space, according to Amsel. It would require vast expansion of his warehouse space, which is not cheap. He would also need to hire more employees to haul this bulkier and heavier product, and that could increase employee injuries as well. And then there are transportation issues: He would need more trucks and use more fuel to distribute the same number of bags.

Paper isn’t an environmental panacea either. One study reports that plastic grocery bags consume 40 percent less energy during production and generate 80 percent less solid waste than paper bags.

Ironically, those people who remember to haul around cloth bags may suffer adverse health effects because pathogens can develop in these bags from leaky meat packages and unwashed produce. In fact, university researchers have found significant amounts of potentially deadly coliform and E. coli living in used cloth grocery bags. Because they require more energy and water to make and take more space in a landfill, studies show cloth bags must be used more than 100 times before they yield environmental benefits.

And while plastics in the ocean are a real concern, bag bans in the United States won’t solve a thing. Research shows that the overwhelming majority of plastics in the ocean come from Asia and Africa; less than 1 percent is from the United States. Moreover, proper disposal – not government bans – is the key to keeping plastics out of the ocean.

Lawmakers may turn a blind eye to these realities, but unfortunately those who will suffer the consequences won’t have that luxury.

Angela Logomasini, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

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