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Medicine Science

Are Plastic Bag Bans Making People Sick? 533

Posted by samzenpus
from the deadliest-bag dept.
theodp writes "A paper by Wharton's Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright suggested that San Francisco's eco-friendly ban on plastic bags might actually be killing people. Klick and Wright found that food-borne illnesses in San Francisco increased 46% after the bag ban went into effect in 2007, with no such uptick in neighboring counties. Most likely, the authors concluded, this was due to the fact that people were putting their food into dirty reusable bags and not washing them afterward. But Tomas Aragon, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley and health officer for the city of San Francisco, begs to differ, arguing that in order to establish a link between the bag ban and illnesses, the authors would have to show that the same people who are using reusable bags are also the ones getting sick. Aragon offers an alternative hypothesis for the recent rise in deaths related to intestinal infections, noting that a large portion of the cases in San Francisco involve C. difficile enterocolitis, a disease that's often coded as food-borne illness in hospitals which has become more common in lots of places since 2005, all around the U.S., Canada, and Europe (for yet-unexplained reasons). 'The increase in San Francisco,' he suggests, 'probably reflects this international increase.'"
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Are Plastic Bag Bans Making People Sick?

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  • That's funny.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:44AM (#42935095)

    In Ireland that didn't happen when they introduced a levy on plastic bags years ago and their usage plummeted.
    Might I humbly suggest the cause lies elsewhere? Such as the original food quality. [insert nauseating overused quote about correlation!=causality]

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:01AM (#42935275) Homepage

      The rest of Europe too. Bags are mostly banned there but the population isn't dropping like flies.

      This study is flawed, methinks.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:17AM (#42935441)

        I've done a study of my own as well, one the likes of this one, and I've found that most of the wars, massacres and assassinations were my fault. Why? Well, for most of the occurrences (like 99%) I slept that day/night. Coincidence? Think not, statistics don't lie.

        Some people just overreach for causality. I used to think that most who did were conspiracy theorists (aka loonies), but more and more often I see studies like this one and wonder... How the hell can I get payed for crap like this as well?

      • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:20AM (#42935465)

        The rest of Europe too. Bags are mostly banned there but the population isn't dropping like flies.

        This study is flawed, methinks.

        The paper doesn't say anything about the population dropping like flies. Do you have statistics for food-based illness in Europe before and after a similar ban?

        • Re:That's funny.... (Score:5, Informative)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:02PM (#42936475)

          The paper doesn't say anything about the population dropping like flies.

          It says that 5.4 additional people died. I would like to see the other 0.6 of the last person to die.

          I am not sure if their conjectured mechanism is plausible. We have a ban where I live (San Jose, CA) and plastic bags are still allowed for produce, meat, etc. The law in SF is the similar. So the reusable bag doesn't actually touch the food. It only touches the packaging or wrapping.

          • by spitzak (4019) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:53PM (#42937703) Homepage

            I agree something is fishy about this. Where I am the ban does not cover the handle-less cellophane bags that are on a big roll in the produce department. Virtually everybody uses these for produce. I think the cashiers would be very unhappy if you brought loose produce to the checkout, at least for items that can be contaminated this way (ie I don't put a pineapple in a bag).

          • It says that 5.4 additional people died. I would like to see the other 0.6 of the last person to die.

            Without access to the study itself, I'd guess the math is based on the % increase in ER visits, and then using that % to determine culpability for the extra deaths post-ban.

            The number doesn't mean there's a half death person out there, but it does assign half a death to a certain factor (plastic bag ban).

          • by Myopic (18616) *

            What the heck is four tenths of a person? I mean, for me it's my dick but what is it for the rest of you?

      • by sFurbo (1361249)
        Do you have any data to back that up? The effect could be subtle enough not to be picked up, especially when it was so unexpected. If it hasn't been tested, correlating bag use in Europe with food-borne disease would be an obvious test.
      • Bathing (Score:4, Funny)

        by sycodon (149926) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:31AM (#42935595)

        San Fran has a fairly low incidence of people bathing regularly.

        At least that's what my nose told me the last time I was there.

        • Re:Bathing (Score:4, Funny)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:30AM (#42936149) Journal
          I found that San Francisco did have quite a distinctive smell, but it wasn't body odour, it was a combination of internal combustion engine exhaust and cannabis smoke.
          • by sycodon (149926)

            Don't they run their cars on Weed?

            It's a twofer! Just route the exhaust through the cabin.

        • Re:Bathing (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:29PM (#42938485) Homepage

          San Fran has a fairly low incidence of people bathing regularly.

          At least that's what my nose told me the last time I was there.

          Well joking aside, something that people are forgetting is that California and their wonderful love of all things organic and of course there are plenty of idiots who do organic gardening with unpurified human waste. So cross contamination would be very easy to pick up that way, I seem to remember that there was a huge outbreak of e.coli in europe regarding brussel sprouts a few years back linked to exactly that.

          When you get contamination into a plastic bag that's not cleaned, or sterilized, you're cross contaminating everything else you put in there as well. The ministry of health here in Ontario put out a similar warning after a small outbreak. I think it was 15 or 25 ill linked to a reusable bag and a dinner party, I'll have to see if I can find the release on it. It was back 6ish years ago.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        huh?

        this is news to me.
        though mostly plastic bags have never been 100% free in finland.. only crappy plastic bags are free(the kind of that you put onions etc in for weighing) but not that many people use them.

        and they get used then for garbage..

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:45AM (#42936285)

        The rest of Europe too. Bags are mostly banned there but the population isn't dropping like flies.

        This study is flawed, methinks.

        Actually, most of Europe has a big problem with C. difficile enterocolitis, so it is quite possible that reusable bags could be a common source of transmission. Read carefully what the epidemiologists are saying. They are not saying that the bags are not the cause of this. They are saying that there isn't the proper data to determine if the bags are the cause of it. In other words, until a proper study is conducted, you cannot claim the bags are the source of the transmission, nor can you claim the bags are not the source of the transmission.

        To paraphrase Schrodinger "Until a valid study is done, the bag is and is not the source of the transmission."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by operagost (62405)
        Doesn't the article say that, in fact, outbreaks of enterocolitis ARE going up in Europe? Europe, where bans on plastic bags are common, yet somehow this proves dirty reusable bags are NOT the cause?
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Like the fact that most people are too stupid to WASH their reuseable bags?

      • by Jetra (2622687) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:20AM (#42935469)
        Those things are about as dishwasher friendly as a cat with a scratching post. My question is why aren't they using paper bags? Those things are far better than any reusable bag I've ever had. On the plus side, they're multipurpose as well as 100/% recyclable.
        • Re:That's funny.... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by xaxa (988988) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:37AM (#42935655)

          Those things are about as dishwasher friendly as a cat with a scratching post. My question is why aren't they using paper bags? Those things are far better than any reusable bag I've ever had. On the plus side, they're multipurpose as well as 100/% recyclable.

          Most supermarkets round here (and most in Europe) have two kinds of reusable bag -- one that's sold for between 10-50p (depending on taxes), and is essentially a thicker plastic bag with better handles, like one you might get from a luxury clothes shop.

          The other kind is £1 or more, and made from some kind of durable plastic sheeting. It's not possible to screw these up into a ball, and they last pretty much forever.

          (Paper bags, if used only once, can be worse for the environment as they're heavier, so the transport cost is greater.)

        • Dishwasher?! They're cloth; you either put them in a washing machine, or handwash them as you would any fragile cloth (which method is appropriate for each particular bag is listed on the tag). Are there seriously people that don't know this?
          • Re:That's funny.... (Score:4, Informative)

            by urdak (457938) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:51AM (#42935779)

            On what planet do people actually have time to hand-wash a dozen bags each week? Not on mine... So nobody I know ever washes these things. When they *look* dirty (which might be too late) people throw them away.

            Even when you use a reusable bag, the sensible thing to do with certain kinds of food - especially uncooked meat - is to put them in a plastic bag. This plastic bag will protect the reusable bag, your car, and your fridge, from being contaminated.

            In any case, this whole ban on plastic bags is nothing short of idiocy. Plastic bags *are* reusable, and people (e.g., me) do reuse them all the time, for anything from collecting garbage, carrying wet clothes from the pool, collecting dog excrement or cat litter, etc., etc. If people won't have these bags from the supermarket, they would buy them anyway. Heck, when was the last time you saw anyone throwing away plastic shopping bags, without reusing them first?

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Why would you put cloth in the dishwasher?

          I put mine in the washing machine, like I do with the rest of my cloth items. Seems to be working so far.

        • Re:That's funny.... (Score:5, Informative)

          by TWX (665546) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:09AM (#42935971)
          Those crappy $0.99 "reusable" bags that are not much more than the disposable bags they replaced aren't worth using.

          We bought some heavy canvas bags. The handles are stitched down the sides of the bags to the bottoms. They don't break, they machine wash, and they hold a lot more content than those crappy bags hanging at the grocery store registers.

          The bags we use came from the crafting store. They're sold as bags to be decorated with fabric paint. Ours are just plain, but we bought them there because they were a lot less expensive than buying similar bags elsewhere.
        • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:41PM (#42936889) Journal
          Or we could just get over the nonsense of the plastic bag bans. There are two problems with plastic bags, the first is simply littering (which is relatively easy to solve), but the main problem is that "they're made from oil and don't biodegrade". This is a GOOD THING. What do we do with oil? Either leave it in the ground (unlikely, seeing as there's money to be made), burn it (very bad for the environment, as we know) or turn it into plastics. Plastics do not pump carbon into the atmosphere in anything like the way burning oil does, and the failure to biodegrade is a bonus, it means that our discarded plastics, if disposed of correctly will simply sit there in managed landfill doing precisely nothing. Good for the atmosphere, and a future source of plastics when the oil runs out.

          I really don't see the origin of the plastic bag demonisation, other than newspapers and politicians enjoying an easy bandwagon that makes it look like they're being proactive without actually having to change anything or annoy the oil lobby.
          • Plastics vary. Most degrade, particularly in sunshine, and ozone helps too. Don't be impatient, it may take a decade.

            One of the most reviled plastics, expanded polystyrene, is an excellent component in potting soil. By making soil lighter and less easily packed, it promotes root growth.

        • Re:That's funny.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dgatwood (11270) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:28PM (#42938013) Journal

          My question is why aren't they using paper bags? Those things are far better than any reusable bag I've ever had. On the plus side, they're multipurpose as well as 100/% recyclable.

          Because the environuts who passed these laws managed simultaneously mandated a 10 cent per bag charge for paper bags, thus ensuring that everyone will use their reusable bags for everything, whether it makes sense or not. And no, the availability of the free plastic bags for fresh vegetables is not a solution. There aren't usually free bags at the meat counter, which means everything else you carry is going to get contaminated if you buy meat. And even if they have bags, those bags don't have handles, which means that you're still handling contaminated meat and then touching a reusable bag's handle.

          Of course, for those of us who, prior to the ban, routinely refused bags that we didn't need and reused the plastic bags we did get as trash bags, these new laws basically amount to a flat tax on living in the affected cities. We now have to buy plastic bags to replace the bags that we used to get for free. And because the bags you buy are much heavier than the bags they replaced, these laws actually represent a net increase in petroleum consumption for me.

          Plastic bag bans are pretty much net negatives, as far as I can tell. The only benefit is a reduction in litter from plastic bags blowing around, and that problem is mostly caused by garbage pickup people who don't care about all the bits they leave behind. They could have solved the same problem by driving along behind the garbage trucks for a week and fining them every time they failed to pick up trash that fell out of the cans, and our neighborhoods would have been significantly cleaner for it. Instead, they attacked the problem by punishing the users. It clearly falls on the other side of my bats**t crazy line as far as laws go, and I strongly encourage any communities thinking about such laws to reconsider.

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:46AM (#42935739) Homepage

        Why the hell would I wash a reusable cloth shopping bag. I don't stick slices of bread in it, I stick a packaged loaf of bread in it. I don't stick unbagged fruit and vegetables, they are all separately bagged. I can't imagine walking up to the meat section and start throwing unpacked chunks of meat into the bag, all of it is individually packed. The mind boggles at pouring milk into the bag rather than getting a sealed container.

        I've been using them for years, they are still pretty much clean, I might have cleaned one bag when there was a spill but that was it. No smells or odours from the bag, no weird growths and no illness. Me thinks the idiot neither does the shopping nor the cooking. Rinse all fruit and vegetable prior to eating or cooking. Check for dirty packages prior to storing in pantry or fridge and give them a wipe over if neccesary, pretty rare.

        Next people will be going nuts over how dirty and disease ridden money is and handling it whilst handling your groceries.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      This might not be as strong of a point as first it seems. Cultural differences as well as sources of food might play a roll in it not happening on different continents. It may very well be that the food isn't initially exposed to the bacteria during the process in the first place making the exposure or growth of the bacteria less likely as well as different ways to commonly prepare the food might kill it off before it enters the body.

      But over all, yes, I agree there will likely be other causes or reasons fo

  • by MarioMax (907837) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:48AM (#42935135)

    I'm wondering if there's a difference between paper bag users and plastic bag users. Not routinely washing a reusable bag is a plausible source for disease, but it isn't the only thing to consider.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:04AM (#42935301) Homepage

      Not routinely washing a reusable bag is a plausible source for disease

      Just an observation: Doesn't food usually have its own packaging/wrappers to protect it from the filthy bags?

      • by MarioMax (907837) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:11AM (#42935389)

        Just an observation: Doesn't food usually have its own packaging/wrappers to protect it from the filthy bags?

        Fruits and vegetables don't usually come prepackaged, at least in the US. Most meats are packaged, but also tend to leak. Just about everything else comes prepackaged.

        • by baKanale (830108)
          Where I come from they usually provide small plastic bags for you to put your fruits and vegetables in when you're shopping. This keeps them together and grouped by type, making things easier when you get to checkout. Incidentally they're extremely useful afterwards for cleaning up after your dog on walks.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:10AM (#42935383)
      Just use plastic. The carbon footprint is lower than paper evidently [uoregon.edu]. People think paper is better because it can decompose, but it doesn't in landfills buried under tons of other trash without air for the bacteria. And it doesn't really matter: litter is ugly but harmless compared to ocean acidification or climate change.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Which is why I burn it... it keeps all that carbon right there.

      • by MarioMax (907837)

        From the sounds of it, the cotton and paper industries are in need of manufacturing improvements of some kind.

      • by s0nicfreak (615390) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:29AM (#42935583) Homepage Journal
        The paper bags are reusable at home though; plastic bags are really good for little else than trash bags, and the store bags have become so thin that they tear by the time I get my groceries put away. Paper bags, on the other hand, can be reused for countless things; I make them into books, cards, writing paper, etc. etc. Also you can throw paper bags into a home compost pile.
        • All good points, but all things that most people are unlikely to do. Personally, I get plastic bags because they can be repurposed as cat litter trash bags.
      • by spike hay (534165) <blu_ice.violate@me@uk> on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:37AM (#42935661) Homepage

        The real problem with plastic is the creation of plastic marine debris. Plastic bags are the #1 source of plastic marine debris, which is quite harmful to ocean life.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If I think one of my fabric (usually plasti-fabric) shopping bags has become dirty, then I wash it. I don't check too much to see if it actually has become dirty, because an extra washing ain't gonna hurt and hell, maybe it is dirty.

        I get my bags for $1.50 each when I go by Daiso, which for me is located in the Serramonte Plaza but which for others might better be located online. People comment on how attractive they are, which I find bemusing but which might matter to some readers.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        I never understood peoples obsession with wanting paper to decompose quickly in land fills. Paper is carbon. Putting it in the ground and not having it decompose is the sequestering of carbon. I can understand people being upset about the environmental cost of producing paper, but once it is paper, and it is in a landfill, having it decompose just increases the chance of the carbon getting back into the environment.
  • This was on the news a week or two back. Mine go through the wash maybe once a month. Is it really all that hard to realize the things get all sorts of tasty but nasty without refrigeration stuff in them?
     

  • There are many many cities in both the USA and Canada (and probably Europe) that have banned plastic bags. If you want to prove your case, then you should be able to point to simmilar correlation of increase of illness in those cities with the start of these bans as well. If, on the other hand, there is no such correlation in these other cities, then this has nothing to do with plastic bags at all and is something else happening in SF.

    I would be willing to wager the latter.

  • Authors are lawyers (Score:5, Informative)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:51AM (#42935181)
    If you go to the source paper [ssrn.com] you'll notice both authors are from law school. So, that being said, why are they writing about a medical issue and using questionable statistics?

    Here is the abstract:

    "Recently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds. San Francisco County was the first major US jurisdiction to enact such a regulation, implementing a ban in 2007. There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. We examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of the San Francisco ban. We find that ER visits spiked when the ban went into effect. Relative to other counties, ER admissions increase by at least one fourth, and deaths exhibit a similar increase. "
    • by snarkh (118018)

      Presumably, raw meat and such would be in a plastic bag or package within the reusable bag and whatever leaks would be a small amount.
      After that it needs to touch something that you eat raw without washing too much. It is not impossible, but does not seem too likely to cause problems. Certainly, the same thing can happen within a single use bag.

      The authors, on the other hand, are claiming huge percentage increases in food poisoning. Had to believe.

    • by fermion (181285) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:40AM (#42935693) Homepage Journal
      1) who is paying them

      2) it is plausible they are cherry picking data so they can sue on behalf of people who get sick

      3) did they have an objective epidemiologist on the team. If they just went through the databases without one, they can easily find whatever patterns they are looking for.

      4) Did they have an objective statition on the team. Again, it is easy to find patterns.

    • First off, you're asking a leading question, which is a logical fallacy.

      Second, you do make a good point.

      Finally, I like how the doctor in the summary gives the answer: "Your explanation sounds like conjecture and has no verifiable numbers to back it up! I propose a better solution, which is also conjecture and has no verifiable numbers to back it up, but I think it's probably right."

  • by emil (695) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:52AM (#42935191) Homepage
    A "bag" of woven metal could take advantage of the oligodynamic effect [wikipedia.org]. Problem solved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:57AM (#42935231)

    This is the wrong approach to environmentalism. We need to focus on the big stuff, not on feel-good tokenism like bag bans or super-duper biodegradable coffee cups.

    Does the small stuff help? Yes. But we are stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

    Want to make disposable bags less of a problem? Let's encourage people to reuse them for small wastebaskets and dog poop pickup. This keeps purpose-bought bags from being made and out of the landfills. I also use them as a packing material, in place of wadded paper or packing peanuts.

    Chinese factories are busy pumping untreated toxic effluent directly into rivers which drain to the oceans. Let's stop pretending that Mother Earth's greatest menace is a plastic bag.

    What is the ecological footprint of a hospital admission? Maybe, for reasons described in TFA, bag bans aren't quite as bad as everybody says - we still know they're getting people sick because busy people don't always wash bags properly - and people as a whole never will. The cross-contamination vector has been well studied by the foodservice industry.

    Let's focus on real environmentalism, not on tokenism designed to make yuppies feel good about themselves.

    • I've found that some stores have bags too crappy to re-use. Walmart bags I keep because I reuse them for lots of stuff, but Wegmans bags are much thinner and half of them are ripped open by the time I get home and unload the groceries. I like the model that Aldi and BJ's use - bags cost extra, but help yourself to the leftover cardboard boxes that they received the food in. It's great for small to moderate loads and isn't too much of a problem for large loads of groceries.

      • by SQLGuru (980662)

        Target bags are more durable than Wal-Mart bags.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I don't know who Aldi or BJ are, but my local cooperative market (in Ukiah) also uses the same model. Sometimes I forget my bags, and then I end up with boxes. They go in the blue can and they go away for free, so I win.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      Of course. Except that "small things" can get pretty big [wikipedia.org] when billions of people are involved.
    • by An dochasac (591582) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:25AM (#42936085)

      This is the wrong approach to environmentalism. We need to focus on the big stuff, not on feel-good tokenism like bag bans or super-duper biodegradable coffee cups.

      Does the small stuff help? Yes. But ...

      Yes...But... you should have quit while you were ahead. The small stuff IS the big stuff. "5 bags a week," you say. "No big deal." but there are 1 million others in San Francisco who could say the same thing as could 38 million in California, 300 million in the US, 7 billion in the world. (Yea I know let's suppose only 1/6th of the world's population are wealthy enough to throw away plastic every week, that's only 52 billion bags a year, no big deal right?) Except that it is. We've only been able to produce cheap disposable plastic for a couple of decades and already our oceans are filling with plastic.

      Plastic bag bans work and the biggest unintended side-effect is that it will stir up a bunch of self-righteous lawyers paid no-doubt by the bubble-bag industry. I live in Ireland and I've seen this work. In fact of all of the environmental campaigns in my lifetime, only the installation of scrubbers on a nearby coal-power plant (also a "no brainer") had a more direct and dramatic impact than Ireland's plastic bag ban-- this in a country which did not benefit from the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign where Iron Eyes Cody finally guilted enough whiny white Americans out of being jerks to make a difference for a while. I'm not asking everyone to travel to the southern ocean and stop whaling and oil spills. Just don't be a jerk. It isn't as difficult as our nation's cultural inertia makes it seem.

    • by NotBorg (829820) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:21PM (#42936639)

      Speaking of stepping over dollars for pennies, I'd rather go to the store less often. If we have to make everything about bags then reducing the number of bags used could also be accomplished by not having to purchase shit that was designed to break and be replaced within six to eight months. We shouldn't just count the bags themselves but the stuff that we bring home in them.

      I've always wondered why the environmental evangelism only cares about cars, solar panels, and plastic shopping bags. Stop taxing my bags and start taxing products that just don't last. We have the data, we know what products last a long time and we know that "modern" versions of them won't last a long time. For god sake we know how to engineer better products.

      For example. I have a coffee grinder that I've been using for around 10~12 years. I consider myself lucky to have such a good quality product. A week ago it started making more noise than usual. After years of faithful service it's finally giving out. I know that if I buy a new one--even from the same brand--it will probably last a year at best. When you consider that most of today's products fit in that category of 1/10th the lifespan they should have.... is buying 10 times as much shit really a good idea?

      Crappy products should be taxed, if not illegal. Someone should tell Washington that it's not all about cars and shopping bags.

      I remember when CFLs were just starting to become well known. They literally did last for years. I got them because I was tired of standing precariously on a chair to change an incandescent light every two months. I didn't buy them for the sake of mother earth. I purchased them because they genuinely were better products. CFLs used to last. Every one of the CFLs I've purchased in the last year has had to be replaced. Is the energy saved still going to offset the environmental cost of manufacturing, distribution, and landfills considering your projections originally assumed a much longer lifespan?

      Wake the fuck up America, we need to stop the fraud, waste, and abuse that exists in nearly every market. Nearly everything you have should be lasting longer and we need our government to make that happen. For the sake of the consumer and for the sake of our planet. Get your politically inclined environmental hippies doing something useful (besides legalizing marijuana) and lets get the campaign for better products going.

  • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:57AM (#42935239) Homepage
    Simple. Do what I do. Wash your bags regularly. Problem solved. I haven't had a problem in the two years I've exclusively used my own bags.
  • by paiute (550198) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:59AM (#42935253)
    Hold it right there with your reasonable alternate hypothesis. We already have the answer we want. Plastic bag ban = neohippie commies = Liberals = certain death.

    Sincerely,
    Roger Ailes
    • Right because the guy who proposes the alternative has no bias on this issue...wait, the guy suggesting the alternative hypothesis happens to work for the city which might be on the hook for those medical expenses if the hypothesis is correct. Note that the argument for the alternative hypothesis looks a lot like the type of arguments the tobacco companies made against the early studies linking cigarettes to cance.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      See, that's because they aren't thinking ahead. Imagine this scenario if you will:
      1. Liberals ban plastic bags.
      2. Liberals are lazy and don't wash their reusable bags.
      3. Liberals get sick and die from the dirty bags.
      4. San Francisco, a bastion of everything Republicans hate, becomes a ghost town as the evil liberals die off, and takes Berzerkely with it. Haight-Ashbury gone, Castro gone,
      5. That makes it easy for the GOP to dominate both the California state government and the presidency (due to those juicy

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:01AM (#42935273)

    whose other papers include:

    - legal abortion turned your daughter into a herpes-ridden slut
    - helping poor people treat their diabetes just leads to more fatties, yo
    - health insurance mandates are so bad that they drive people to drink
    - hey, you know what would really solve our health care problems? Tort reform.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:06AM (#42935329)

    We've known for some time that reusable grocery bags were like keyboards - absolutely filthy. If you force people to use unsanitary containers to carry their food it only makes sense that their could be a corresponding increase in the risk of infection.

    Think about it, we have food sanitation standards for stores, we have medical sanitation standards for good reasons that can both be enforced when someone is supervising someone else. Remove the supervisor and people fall back to laziness because that is human nature. Logically, is there really any other expected outcome?

    I think this passes the sniff test and should be tested more to see if it has merit. I say this as someone who originally supported the idea of the ban and still supports banning things like Styrofoam cups. Science needs to be put in front of emotion and allowed to run the course.

    • We've known for some time that reusable grocery bags were like keyboards - absolutely filthy.

      I think they need to look at the cooking habits of the people there. Cooking kiils germs, but maybe the enlightened people of San Francisco are more likely to eat food raw for the sake of the planet?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If you force people to use unsanitary containers to carry their food it only makes sense that their could be a corresponding increase in the risk of infection.

      That is not what is happening. No one is forcing people to use unsanitary containers. They have the option to wash their shopping bags. Fairly high-quality shopping bags are available for a buck and a half if you look around a bit (flea markets, variety stores, etc) so it's unreasonable to assume that any significant burden is being placed. They also take up very little space in the wash, and the synthetic ones don't even need to be machine dried. They have very little surface area, so they spin very dry an

  • by chill (34294)

    San Francisco is rapidly on the path that only can lead to one conclusion: They're all getting on the "B" Ark.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:10AM (#42935385) Homepage Journal

    Actual problem: there's too many people, using too much land, and not only can nature not keep pace through renewing resources, but we're eliminating the habitats of species. The solution is to have fewer people, which requires we rethink our concept of "freedom," and to focus on cradle-to-grave handling of technology to reduce pollution.

    That's taboo.

    Fake solution: plastic bag bans, CFL lightbulbs, carbon caps, and "green" disposable junk you buy at stores.

    It doesn't work but it (a) feels good and (b) doesn't interrupt our busy lifestyles.

    • 2 of those things have an objectively measurable positive impact, 2 of them are actually junk. I'm sorry you're willing to dismiss functional ideas because you mentally associate them with "the wrong people".

  • Incoming politics! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:14AM (#42935409)

    I predict that within a week, at least one right-leaning website is going to be publishing a column using this to attack the idea of environmentalism and arguing that this proves liberalism endangers human lives.

  • isnt this story where there was a sick girl, sharing a hotel room with lots of other people, the girl used a reusable plastic bag from a store as a bin liner in the bathroom and after a number of her room mates fell ill they found some germs on the plastic bag bin liner it's nonsense to suggest either - the bag is a more likely reason the illness spread than any other reason that comes with sharing a hotel room - that bags in general spread illness - that the exact same thing cant happen if we dont re-use
  • "Correlation does not equal causation."

    It may be true, but a surprising result requires equally compelling proof.

    There may well be something very different that just happens to track in time with the bag ban.

    • by VAElynx (2001046)

      There may well be something very different that just happens to track in time with the bag ban.

      It could. However, that means precisely nothing until you discover such a hidden cause, and until you find it you can't use it to parry accusations that arise from a plausible mechanism explaining what is shown to be happening - the hypothesis that filthy reusable bags are the cause.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:01AM (#42935891) Journal
    State officials in California have asked municipalities to reduce their storm drain waste by 40%. Whatever the solution to that would end up being, it would be expensive, if not impossible. How do you prevent 40% of the waste in your storm drains, which are publicly accessible all over town? The requirement wasn't to reduce waste to a certain level... it was to reduce it by 40% below what it already is... so if your numbers are already good, you have to make them that much better. It's chasing after a rainbow.

    So the state gave the municipalities a loophole [mercurynews.com]: you don't have to reduce your storm drain waste by 40% (or at all) if you institute a plastic bag ban. No questions asked. The municipalities get to avoid costly Environmental Impact Reports, and they get to tell their residents "look! We're doing something for the environment," so they're passing these bans with little or no discussion. So now you have just as much waste in the storm drains, restaurants and other places that have been given a pass are still handing out plastic bags all day long, and stores that weren't given a pass are either giving out thicker plastic bags with handles that are labelled as "reusable" or selling people paper bags for 10 cents. You don't see people walking into stores with these thicker bags or the paper bags, so that means they're being thrown out anyway, and they have more mass than the "banned" bags, so we really haven't reduced waste at all... we've made it worse.

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