New Hampshire will not ban thin-film plastic bags or limit restaurants’ use of plastic soda straws this year.
The state Senate decided not to pass two measures which would have prohibited grocery stores, restaurants, and retailers from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers and would have prevented restaurants and other food vendors from providing plastic straws unless specifically requested.
The New Hampshire Senate declined to pass the plastic straw ban, and it approved an amended version of H.B. 560 that stripped out the bag ban and instead will require New Hampshire towns to produce annual waste management reports, on May 15.
‘Consumers Now Are Free’
A plastic bag ban is not right for New Hampshire, says state Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Carroll).
“NH is the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Cordelli said. “Consumers now are free to use canvas bags to carry groceries without a government mandate or ban on plastics.”
Bag ban supporters do not understand people use disposable plastic bags for much more than carrying food from a store, says Cordelli.
“In many cases, the term ‘single use’ is a misnomer,” Cordelli said. “Many people who do carry their groceries out in plastic bags reuse them in their household for things such as trash can liners.”
Costs But Not Benefits
Taxes and bans on single-use plastic bags produce little environmental benefit while increasing costs to retailers and consumers, says Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“Both bans and taxes inconvenience consumers, costing them money in return for no environmental benefit,” Logomasini said. “Taxes are bad, but a ban is even worse because it forces consumers to use products that produce more waste and use more energy.”
Minuscule Trash Effect
Plastic bags do not contribute significant amounts of trash, says Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance.
“Bags make up less than 0.3 percent of waste and consistently less than 1 percent of litter,” Seaholm said. “Plastic grocery bags are 100 percent recyclable, and 78 percent [are reused], according to one recent study.”
Alternatives Bad for Environment
Alternatives to plastic bags have significant environmental costs, says Logomasini.
“Reusable cloth bags … require far more energy and other resources to make, and they may produce more landfill waste,” Logomasini said. “A 2011 study by the U.K. government’s Environment Agency found cotton bags would have to be used 131 times before they yield environmental benefits.
“One study reports plastic bags require 71 percent less energy to produce,” Logomasini said. “Plastic bag production also uses less than 6 percent of the water needed to make paper bags, [and] paper bags generate nearly five times the amount of solid waste.”
Paper bags also involve huge transportation costs, says Seaholm.
“It takes seven trucks to deliver the same number of paper bags as it does for one truck of plastic bags,” Seaholm said.
Kelsey E. Hackem ([email protected]) writes from Washington State.
Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Carroll): http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/default.aspx