Unintended consequences of a plastic bag ban - Liberty Justice Center

Unintended consequences of a plastic bag ban

It’s already been widely reported that the Chicago City Council voted to ban the sale of plastic bags in city.

Alderman Joe Moreno, a main sponsor of the ordinance, wrote in the Chicago Tribune that plastic bags are “one of the most destructive, offensive and wasteful products ever created.” This is a difficult claim to take seriously since his ordinance still permits the sale of the “destructive” products at restaurants and stores that aren’t chains.

Not only does the ban violate the rights of businesses and consumers to choose how to transport their goods, but there are also reasons why this ban might not even be good for Chicagoans’ health.

Reusable bags, which the city is pushing people to use instead of plastic, may end up posing a real public health risk. Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University conducted a study showing that only 3 percent of reusable bag owners clean their bags. This matters because the uncleaned bags carried large amounts of coliform bacteria and E. coli. According to the study, many of the bacteria are “capable of causing opportunistic infections in humans.”

Reusable bags can be even more dangerous when shoppers use them to carry both meat and vegetables. Salmonella and campylobacter, for instance, are frequently found in uncooked meats, whose fluid can easily leak onto produce and into a reusable bag. According to the same study, the “improper handling of raw food products during shopping and transport to the home is a route of exposure for the transmission of these pathogens,” as in the bags 97 percent of users don’t clean. New plastic bags, on the other hand, were shown to carry no bacteria at all.

Supporters of the ban often complain about plastic bags being left around as trash. But many consumers reuse plastic bags for other purposes, such as packed lunches and carting gym clothes to and from work. Pet owners also make use of plastic bags – if they are less readily available, what do they think dog owners will use as substitutes for picking up pet waste? Maybe some people will use paper bags, but paper bags are relatively cumbersome for that purpose, so we may revert to the days when many Chicagoans just didn’t pick up after their dogs.tcy

Politicians often claim to know what’s best for us, but it’s more often the case that they don’t. Freedom of choice is important on its own, but it also helps us protect our own health. Let’s hope the consequences of the latest City Council overreach aren’t as severe they could be.

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