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Bagless in Seattle: Green Cultists to Tax Plastic and Paper
The shopping police.
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When last I covered the environmental zealots in my old stomping grounds of Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels was terrorizing the kids at Christmas time with tales of Santa and the reindeer drowning if they didn’t use compact fluorescent Gore bulbs. What are they up to now? The green cultists are preparing to impose a 20-cent tax on both paper and plastic bags in a bid to force everyone to use those itty-bitty cloth bags that’ll fit a head of organic lettuce and little else:

Seattle could trump even the greenest of American cities with fines on foam and taxes on bags — both paper and plastic, city politicians say.

Seattle would impose a 20-cent-per-bag “green fee” and outlaw foam food containers next year under a proposal announced Wednesday. Aiming to persuade Seattleites to ditch disposable bags, the city hopes to send a free reusable bag to every Seattle household, Mayor Greg Nickels said.

“No other city has done what we’re suggesting here,” Nickels said. “These actions will take tons of plastic and foam out of our waste stream. … The best way to handle a ton of waste is not to create it in the first place.” Eventually, Seattle restaurants also would be forbidden from using plastic food containers that can’t be recycled or composted, according to rules being developed by Nickels and City Council President Richard Conlin. Some major questions about the policies remain — from political differences over how to spend the taxes to outstanding technical dilemmas. If adopted by the council, the fee would apply to disposable bags distributed at grocery, convenience and drug stores. The polystyrene foam ban would force restaurants and stores to find alternative egg cartons, meat trays, plates, “clamshells” and cups.

The foam and bag rules would go into effect Jan. 1. The plastic food container restrictions would be implemented July 2010.

“It’s a big symbolic step, but it’s also a very concerted step in the right direction,” Conlin said.

The environmental benefits of these bans are dubious. As points out, “Plastic bags play a minimal role in filling landfills–they are squishable, if people haven’t noticed–and often are reused by consumers for multiple purposes.” In other words: This is yet another empty gesture to give smaller-is-better elites another opportunity to impose their preferences on everyone else:

At the PCC store near Green Lake Wednesday, the idea of answering the question of “paper or plastic?” with “cloth” seemed entirely Seattle to Wendy Asbury. Asbury switched to cloth bags when she moved here eight months ago, she said.

“I’m from the Southwest, where everything is about gluttony and waste,” she said. “That’s what I loved about moving here; everything is so ‘green.’ ” But there were opponents, too, and the proposal set off a debate between friends in the PCC parking lot.

Jenn Young said encouraging people to use cloth seemed less onerous than penalizing them with the fee. “I disagree,” responded Naomi Fujinaka. “I’ve been bringing my cloth bag for 25 years.”

Young said: “It might be hard on families. If you have a family of six with four kids, and you go shopping once a week and you have 10 grocery bags, that can get to be a lot of money.” “Then you’ll know to bring your bag next time,” Fujinaka said. “We really have to change our behavior.”

And we know they don’t just want to stop at changing your choice of shopping bags.

While your kids and city councils have been brainwashed by the anti-bag crusade, scientists in Europe point out the facts and explode the myths that gave rise to the cult:

“The Government is irresponsible to jump on a bandwagon that has no base in scientific evidence,” said Lord Taverne, the chairman of Sense about Science. “This is one of many examples where you get bad science leading to bad decisions which are counter-productive. Attacking plastic bags makes people feel good but it doesn’t achieve anything.”

Campaigners say that plastic bags pollute coastlines and waterways, killing or injuring birds and livestock on land and, in the oceans, destroying vast numbers of seabirds, seals, turtles and whales. However, the Times has established that there is no scientific evidence to show that the bags pose any direct threat to marine mammals.

They “don’t figure” in the majority of cases where animals die from marine debris, said David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the subject. Most deaths were caused when creatures became caught up in waste produce. “Plastic bags don’t figure in entanglement,” he said. “The main culprits are fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands. Most mammals are too big to get caught up in a plastic bag.”

He added: “The impact of bags on whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals ranges from nil for most species to very minor for perhaps a few species.For birds, plastic bags are not a problem either.”

The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.

Fifteen years later in 2002, when the Australian government commissioned a report into the effects of plastic bags, its authors misquoted the Newfoundland study, mistakenly attributing the deaths to “plastic bags.”

The figure was latched on to by conservationists as proof that the bags were killers. For four years the “typo” remained uncorrected. It was only in 2006 that the authors altered the report, replacing “plastic bags” with “plastic debris”. But they admitted: “The actual numbers of animals killed annually by plastic bag litter is nearly impossible to determine.”

In a postscript to the correction they admitted that the original Canadian study had referred to fishing tackle, not plastic debris, as the threat to the marine environment.

Regardless, the erroneous claim has become the keystone of a widening campaign to demonise plastic bags.


David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told the Times that bad science was undermining the government’s case for banning the bags. “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags,” he said. “The evidence shows just the opposite. We are not going to solve the problem of waste by focusing on plastic bags. “It doesn’t do the government’s case any favours if you’ve got statements being made that aren’t supported by the scientific literature that’s out there. With larger mammals it’s fishing gear that’s the big problem. On a global basis plastic bags aren’t an issue. It would be great if statements like these weren’t made.”

Looks like it’s too late.


Side note: The beleaguered plastic bag celebrated its 75th birthday last week.

Say goodbye to plastic. Say hello to smug crap like this:


(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Enviro-nitwits