Do Bans on Plastic Grocery Bags Save Cities Money? says the bans force consumers to use paper bags and reusable bags, which use more energy, resources, produce more greenhouse gases and create more waste and pollution than plastic grocery bags.
The study examined the effect of various plastic bag bans or restrictions in six cities including San Francisco, the city and county of Los Angeles, San Jose, Calif., Washington DC and Brownsville, Texas. Cities that have banned the bags show no evidence that policy has led to a reduction in litter, solid waste disposal or recycling costs, according to the study authored by NCPA senior fellow H. Sterling Burnett.
When San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007, officials argued the new ordinance would reduce disposal costs. Burnett says garbage and recycling rates have instead risen more than 78.6 percent in the city between 2005 and 2013.
Los Angeles County’s plastic bag ban didn’t go into effect until 2011. The study says projected spending rose 5.9 percent from 2011-2012 to the adopted budget for 2012-13.
In June, the city of Los Angeles also approved an ordinance outlawing retail use of thin-flm polyethylene bags, making it the largest US city to prohibit single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores and retail chains that sell food such as Target and Walmart.
The rule, which goes in effect in January 2014 for large stores and July 2014 for smaller stores, sets a 10-cent price on paper bags to encourage customers to bring their own re-usable bags. Plastic bags used for produce are exempt from the ordinance.
Burnett initially pushed the idea that plastic bag bans might have a negative effect on cities in February 2012. At the time, Burnett argued the use of plastic bags could save US jobs.
China is the world’s largest manufacturer of reusable bags, while many plastic bags are made on American soil. Bag bans could then be “handing China control of yet another industry” while threatening US jobs, according to Burnett.