Croatian contribution to the American discussion
Introduction for Croatian blog readers:
Nedavno je na web stranicama američkog Wall Street Journala objavljen članak kojim se inicira diskusija "Trebaju li gradovi zabraniti plastične vrećice" u kojem su gospođa Daniella Dimitrova Russo - suosnivačica i izvršna direktorica Plastic Pollution Coalition (Saveza protiv plastičnog zagađenja) i gospodin Tod Mayers - direktor odjela zaštite okoliša pri Washington Policy Center iznijeli svoje oprečne stavove. Obzirom da i mi iz Hrvatske imamo što reći o ovoj temi, objavio sam sljedeći komentar:
Croatian contribution to the American discussion:
"Should Cities Ban Plastic Bags?"
In Croatia we finished first part of "anti tax on plastic bag" campaign
and I prepared several arguments for discussion. When I saw your article I find that I can give contribution to this discussion. Then, I feel free to post comment on your article with scientifically proven arguments. This article also I wrote as a comment on Washington Post and very similar on The News Tribune (Tacoma) web pages.
Here is my article with 40 arguments in favor of plastic bags:
Former ministry for environmental protection and nature of Croatia proposed tax for plastic bags (we were not sure for which: single use, reusable, plastic bags for garbage, all?), but she has a plan that this tax should be approximately 5400 % more than value of one single use plastic bag.
Our Society for plastic and rubber and plastic bag producers started campaign to inform media and public, what this proposed tax really mean and what consequences that might cause this tax.
Before I write our arguments see some statements of:
George Monbiot in "The Guardian": Plastic bags are not the scourge of the planet; their biggest evil is to distract us from more pressing causes
Vladimir Ferdelji - Croatian manager: Plastic products including plastics bags are very competitive product in any point of view (price, quality, ecological, usability) and producers of products from other materials, which can't reach this competitiveness, must cry out for taxes or bans.
Same manager: Plastic bag's real problem is that she very fast and very noticeable reveals our behavior.
Here is some of arguments what we use in our campaign:
1. plastic bag is multi functional light and firmly product and suitable for all uses (wet, oily, dirty, bulk).
2. plastic bag isn't environmental problem, real problem is human behavior (and lack of waste collection, separation and recycling system). It is not possible correct the human behavior with bans or taxes on any material.
3. lot of researches confirm that plastic bags are really negligible part of house hold waste. In Austria they took part with 0,02 %, in Great Britain plastic bags took 0,03 % space on landfills.
4. plastic bag footprint is only 0,05 % of average citizen's footprint in our environment. In Austria calculate that average citizen's footprint by using plastic bags during the whole year is same as he drive 13 km with car (according to Denkstat Institute research)
5. we estimate that average Croatian citizen produce plastic bag's waste only 300 to max. 500 grams per year.
6. after ban plastic bags in San Francisco, consumption of paper bags rise on double number than was before with plastic bags, because every consumer in markets and stores have to use two or three paper bags for same amount of products. That means fourfold more impact on environment.
7. if tax or ban passed in local community, average consumer will use more other bags (cotton or paper) whose impact on the environment are lot worse.
8. if tax or ban passed, consumption of other type of plastic bags will increase. See Irish experience, when they introduce tax on plastic bags this reduced using of single use bags for 90%, but in supermarkets almost in same time increased sale of plastic bag for garbage for 400 %.
9. every, so called, single use plastic bag are used minimum three times - when we carry out products from store, then we wrap products and put in the fridge, and on the end we use them for as a garbage bags.
10. plastic bags use negligible space on landfills. In one of good organized landfill in Croatia, all plastic packaging (bags, wraps and foils - without plastic bottles and containers) are only 2,9 % of the total waste.
11. many researches confirm that plastic bag's footprint is less than footprints of other products for same usage. Paper bags has 10 time more impact on greenhouse effect, factor depletion of natural resources of paper bag are 62 more than plastic bag.
12. LCA of consumer bags carried by the British Ministry of Environmental Protection has determined that the plastic bag over the paper bag and cloth bag has a significantly lower index of the GWP (Global Warming Potential).
13. consumption of raw materials for paper bags are 22 more than for plastics bags.
Comparison is as follows:
14. material consumption:........................ - plastic 1 - paper 22 > 22 time more;
15. greenhouse effect:............................ - plastic 3 - paper 30 > 10 time more;
16. factor depletion of natural resources:.. - plastic 0,0045 - paper 0,28 > 62 time more;
17. eutrophication:.................................. - plastic 0 - paper 0,025;
18. water consumption (for 1000 bags): ... - less than 200 liters for plastic bags,
............................................................. - 3800 liters for paper bags > 17 time more;
............................................................. - 27000 liters for cotton bags > 135 time more
19. Or calculation on another way:
- to produce a one ton of polyethylene from which is produce about 200.000 plastic bags need less than 200 liters of water;
- to produce a one ton of paper from which is produce about 10.000 paper bags are consumed 15.000-20.000 liters of water.
- to produce only one cotton bag are consumed 2700 liters of water, or to produce 1 ton of cotton cloth are consumed 10.000.000 to 17.000.000 liters of water - for all cotton production, today is using 2,6 % of all World water consumption (well-known case of Aral Sea).
20. for producing plastic bag are using ethylene C2H4 - not intoxicated gas which we get as a surplus product in refining of gasoline and natural gas. Ethylene is use in the production of polyethylene -raw material for plastic bag, and we use only 5 to 7 grams of polyethylene per bags.
21. for all World's plastic bag production we use only 0,05 % of all oil consumption (50 % of oil consumption are use for transport, 32 % for heating - that mean that we simply burned 82 % of oil; 10 % for chemical industry where is 5 % for all plastics and where is 0,05 % for plastic bags).
22. for 1 ton of paper used 3,5 tons of wood and lot of not harmless chemicals (sodium sulfate, sodium hydroxide, magnesium, ammonium bisulphite, chlorine, titanium dioxide, chloride polyaluminium).
23. in waste water after paper production heavy metals were found.
24. for textile bags most commonly used cotton. Cotton is grown on about 3 % of World arable land, and that the cultivation is treated with 25 % of world production of pesticides and herbicides
25. according to Austrian's institute Denkstat research, production and using of plastic bags from energetic point of view is favorably than paper or cotton bags. Unit energy consumption for plastic bag is lower, and at the end of the life cycle of plastic bags can energy recovered.
26. when recycling is a new product consumes much less energy. In cases where the useless bag is burned, due to its high energy value can be used to produce thermal energy.
27. plastic bags or any plastic that has given a very high energy value, it can be in new and modern processes that are well developed and optimized, with inexpensive and efficient method convert into high value fuel.
28. at the same time it should be noted that for polyethylene production consumes a total of only 150 kJ/cm3, for steel processing 350 kJ/cm3 and for aluminum alloy processing 600 kJ/cm3 of energy.
29. paper bags are 18 to 20 times, and canvas bags are up to 30 times more voluminous than plastic bags. To transport these bags take more trucks to be transported from producer to consumer.
30. calculation is simple: if average consumer spends 200 bags per year, in United States (310 million of citizens) spend 62 billion of plastic bags per year. One average track can load 2,7 million plastic bags, or 150.000 paper bags or 92.000 cotton bags that mean that in United States for plastic bag transport use 22.963 trucks, for paper bags 413.333 trucks (18 time more than for plastic bags) and for cotton bags 673.913 trucks (29 time more than for plastic bags).
31. this means more fuel that many times, many times more CO2 and other exhaust gases emissions into the atmosphere, that many times more damaging and unnecessary burdening costly road infrastructure.
32. when it comes to increasing the volume of consumer bags should be mentioned that this will increase volume of waste in the same proportion. Such an increase in the volume of waste will all bring higher costs, because the citizens will reject more voluminous waste, and utility companies because more waste must transported more time and this voluminous waste will occupy more space in landfills.
33. following the introduction of tax on plastic bags in Ireland, where it is their consumption significantly reduced (90 %), there was no reduction of waste at landfills.
34. the introduction of tax on plastic bags will redirect consumers to the use of paper and cloth bags which are expensive and will result in increased cost of living. In supermarkets consumer chooses fruit or vegetables and packed into a thin plastic bag by himself. Charging plastic bags will increase the need for packaging fruit and vegetables and other products in other type of packaging and will automatically increase the consumption of more voluminous and expensive polystyrene trays and plastic film for wrapping. This will also increase labor and packaging costs and will get an additional price increase.
35. increased use of multiple used bags and cloth bags there is a risk for non hygienic conditions and bacterial contamination of purchased products, particularly for moisture content (norovirus).
36. in order to maintain proper hygiene such cloth bags need to be cleaned and washed which automatically means an increase in the consumption of drinking water, expensive energy hazardous chemicals such as detergents, and increase the amount of waste water with remains of detergents what mean increased eutrophication
37. the introduction of tax on plastic bags will have a significant negative impact on the system of organized collection and recycling of plastic bags and generally for all plastic.
38. the recycling materials are kept, preserved natural resources and reducing energy consumption (it is well known: plastic = raw material + energy, by recycling we save both, and raw materials and energy).
39. without recycling, which will result from ban or tax on plastic bags, we will lose all positive effects of plastic, it loses the raw materials and energy, but lose the great possibilities of recycling system that allows just the economic and environmental benefits
40. taxing or banning plastic bags isn't scientifically or professional justified and proven. Explanations of decisions from their advocates and politicians are just flat, sensationalized, based on wrong, false and fraudulent information, or with quite another purpose in background (other lobbies, profits or interests - and definitely no ecological reasons), or are simply populist adulation to the uninformed or wrong informed public.
The simple and only answer to the question in the title
"Should Cities Ban Plastic Bags?" is: NO!
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