Experts say the ban on disposable plastics can lead to unintended environmental impacts

Vancouver’s new plastic bag bylaws and upcoming federal regulations on disposable plastics are concerned that the rules may have undesired consequences.

Vancouver — Vancouver’s new disposable plastic ban highlights expert concerns that intended green policies can actually have unintended environmental impacts.

On January 1, the city of Vancouver introduced a ban on plastic shopping bags, requiring companies to charge consumers 25 cents for disposable cups, 15 cents for paper bags, and an additional $ 1 for reusable bags. I did.

Is the new city ordinance one since the Trudeau government issued a draft rule outlining how Canada bans similar plastic products at the national level, along with plastic cutlery, stir bars, straws and six-pack rings? It was enacted in less than a month. This year’s.

Zack Berman, co-founder of a Vancouver-based juice company Juice truckHe says these policies aren’t really considered and he believes they won’t reduce Canada’s carbon emissions as much as politicians advertise. His concerns are supported by experts and research, especially pointing out that forcing people to use plastic bag alternatives can have totally undesired consequences for the environment.

“Like many of these policies, the city is on the agenda for a cycle of greenwashing,” Berman told The Epoch Times. “And I think in this new ordinance the city set us up [businesses] Until it fails. “

Mr. Berman said that while the city is now obliging companies to collect new fees for disposable items, operators will reinvest their funds in sustainable programs without providing specific guidance. He said he was concerned that he was only encouraging. This allows customers to see the price only as a “cheeky additional profit,” says Berman.

However, the city of Vancouver is not authorized to collect new sales taxes on disposable goods, a spokeswoman said in an email. Instead, the main purpose of the Articles of Incorporation is to reduce disposable items and provide customers and businesses with incentives to use reusable alternatives, they added.

City officials’ goal is to ensure that 82 million cups, 89 million plastic shopping bags, and millions of other disposable items enter landfills and waterways each year, harming various species and marine life. Is to prevent.

Residual effect

Environment and Climate Change Canada drafted corporate guidelines in December to prepare for federal regulations aimed at reducing disposable plastic bags, including an estimated 15 billion plastic bags each year, as Canadians pollute the environment. Announced that it will be announced soon.

But Frank Stephenson, a professor of economics at Berry College in Georgia, said policymakers have forgotten that thin plastic bag alternatives used in stores usually consume even more carbon. Is called.

“And the idea that carry-out plastic bags are disposable is a bit misunderstood because many plastic bags, such as trash cans and cat litter boxes, are used a second time,” he said in an email. I did.

According to the city of Vancouver, 63% of plastic shopping bags were reused as garbage bags by locals.

Stevenson has extensively studied the ban on plastic bags at the Mercatus Center, a university think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.

Both Stephenson and Vancouver City study Rebecca Taylor, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Sydney, Australia, investigated the ban on plastic shopping bags in California.

According to her research, the California ban reduced plastic shopping bag usage by 18.1 million kilograms annually, but increased sales of various sizes of plastic shopping bags thicker than plastic shopping bags by 5.4 million kilograms annually.

Epoch Times Photo
On Monday, June 10, 2019, you can see plastics being collected for recycling in a warehouse in North Vancouver, British Columbia. (The Canadian Press / Jonathan Hayward)

In the case of Vancouver, the net depletion of 12.7 million kilograms of plastic bags per year in California shows that the ban is generally valid with the purchase of more garbage bags.

However, according to Taylor’s research, the use of paper bags increased in California after the ban. 652 million paper bags are used each year and weigh 37.5 million kilograms, more than double the weight of banned plastic bags.

Paper bag production includes the environmental impact of logging and land use. Pulp and paper mills also cause pollution, and because paper bags are thicker than disposable plastic bags, they require more energy to manufacture and transport.

A Research paper “Manufacturing paper bags requires more than four times as much energy as making plastic bags,” the Northern Ireland Assembly announced in 2011.

When it comes to reusable fabric bags, Stevenson says it consumes more carbon to make than plastic or paper bags.

According to a study conducted by the UK government, shoppers need to reuse cotton carry-out bags 131 times before reducing carbon dioxide emissions from a single plastic carry-out bag. And it doesn’t take into account the energy required to wash a plastic bag multiple times or to wash a reusable cloth bag on a regular basis.

“If the bags aren’t cleaned regularly, the ban on bags can lead to increased food poisoning from foodstuffs such as leaky chicken packages,” Stevenson said in San Francisco. He pointed out and found an increase in visits to emergency rooms related to food-borne bacteria following San Francisco. Bag ban.

Mr. Berman says he is dissatisfied with Vancouver officials not consulting with local businesses to come up with more practical solutions to reduce plastics.

He says his juice company and many local restaurants are angry that the city is exempting biodegradable plastic beverage cups from the quarter price.

However, the City of Vancouver said a quarter claim for biodegradable cups and other disposable items would be justified because composting was not approved under British Columbia regulations. Biodegradable items will probably be dumped in the trash and eventually placed in landfills and incinerators, a spokeswoman added.

The British Columbia government is currently considering whether to approve biodegradable plastics at the state’s compost facility.

Berman said the city’s new ordinance could have some positive impact, but Vancouver and BC are recycling to encourage companies to switch to biodegradable plastic products. And I hope you continue to work on expanding and creating the Green Program.

“If consumers and businesses are more aware of packaging and waste, I think there are some good points,” he said. “But I always had the idea that if you were going to do something, you would do it right.”

Jared Gnam