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Fanatical Greens Seeking to Ban Convenient Plastic Shopping Bags

Politics / Climate Change Jul 23, 2008 - 05:41 AM GMT

By: Gerard_Jackson

Politics Now that it looks as if governments will succeed in banning plastic shopping bags it becomes necessary to determine how such a great boon to consumers has been successfully demonised by fanatical greens and dense journalists. In Australia green charge was led by the Victorian Labor Government, the workers' best friend. Despite the fact that it was clear from the outset that the ALP's policy would strike hardest at those on low incomes the State Liberal Party couldn't find a reason to condemn the policy.

The Liberals should have pointed out the enormous benefits derived from the use of plastic shopping bags. They should have stressed time and time again that retailers do not use plastic bags — their customers do. So what the ALP was really attacking was consumer preferences. If those pesky consumers do not behave the way their betters think they should, so much for them! Yet not a single Liberal politician uttered so much as a syllable in protest at the ALP's arrogance and economic stupidity, and that observation includes our so-called free-market think tanks.

What is it about the Liberal Party that makes it impossible exploit an opportunity that is in the interest of consumers? Let us now do what Liberal politicians failed to do and that is examine the case for plastic bags. In other words, standing up for the consumer. The first thing to note is that the ban could actually damage the environment while doing nothing to conserve resources.

There are basically two arguments against plastic bags, one of which states that they waste resources. Greenie zealots and their media enablers argue that these bags require more resources than, for example, cane baskets and that this proves they should be phased out of production. This is the kind of fallacious economic argument that appeals to the simpleminded politicians that infest both parties.

A little reflection would make it clear that the quantity of resources that would have to be directed to manufacturing enough cane baskets to do the work now performed by plastic shopping bags would be enormous. It never occurred to these economic illiterates to wonder why shops, from the smallest to the largest, give away plastic bags and not cane baskets, canvas bags or shopping jeeps. The reason is cost. Manufacturing a 'simple' canvas bag, for instance, costs vastly more than manufacturing a plastic bag. That is why plastic bags must be sold in large bundles instead of individual units.

Oil is what critics usually have in mind when they attack plastic bags as being wasteful of resources. However, since less than 2 per cent of total oil production is used to produce petrochemical products of all kinds, including plastics, the impact on oil consumption of using plastic to make consumer products is negligible. What needs to be stressed is that abolishing plastic bags will reduce human welfare by misdirecting capital goods into other lines of production. Because substitutes for plastic bags require more resources, i.e., land, labour and capital, per unit other lines of production will be forced to restrict their output.

If it were not so, the cost of producing substitutes would be no greater than the cost of producing plastic bags. Any doubts about this statement should be dispelled by the fact that paper bags cost much more than plastic bags and require many more resources in their production as evidence by the difference in costs. The reason is that the bags are made from ethylene gas which is a by-product of natural gas.

Therefore banning plastic bags would force oil companies to burn this gas rather than convert it into a consumer good. And this is considered environmentally sound by economic illiterates in both parties. Also ignored by our ignorant politicians is the wonderful fact that plastic bags are genuinely recyclable*. The Frankston Business Council newsletter reported :

By recycling plastic waste we reduce the need to use more fossil fuels and also have a major impact on the environment by reducing landfill. . . A unique range of 100 per cent recycled products is on display in Langwarrin, including outdoor picnic settings, benches, signage, letter boxes, totems, bollards and jetty planks, just to name a few.

The Australian companies that do this recycling are now being shut down by political edict. (Oddly enough, unions have been very quiet about the resulting unemployment). The second line of attack accuses plastic bags of damaging the environment. The greenie accusation that the humble plastic bag kills "100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year" is an outrageous lie. Lord Taverne, the chairman of Sense about Science, emphatically stated:

The Government is irresponsible to jump on a bandwagon that has no base in scientific evidence. 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. ( Timesonline ).

Greens and politicians have deliberately ignored the significant role plastic bags play in greatly improving hygiene by acting as rubbish containers, not to mention the enormous convenience that shoppers derive from them. (Socialists have never concerned themselves with convenience for customers).

I cannot help noticing that the swarms of summer flies that we once had to tolerate have greatly declined since the arrival of plastic bags. Whether this is a coincidence or not, it still cannot be denied that plastic shopping bags reused as rubbish bags have been a great boon to households and the environment. In my own case, and also that of my friends and relatives, all the plastic bags, apart from the very small ones, that enter my household are used as bin liners. This raises an interesting point: in order to keep his environmental credentials pure politicians would also have to ban plastic bag liners.

Litter and landfills are described as an environmental problem that the use of plastic bags aggravate. But the question of litter applies to a great many things, including newspapers, aluminium cans, and various wrappings. These examples merely emphasise the fact that littering is a behavioural problem that has nothing to do with the production of plastic bags.

The failure of the State Liberal Party to expose the Government's economic stupidity and green bigotry stems from the unfortunate fact that the party 'leadership' is in the incompetent hands of spoiled, self-centred millionaires like the obnoxious Michael Kroger and the bumbling Ted Baillieu. These ignorant and unprincipled Brahmins have all but devastated the party thereby virtually eliminating all effective opposition to the Labour Government.

*By genuinely recyclable I mean that they do not require subsidies. If subsidies were necessary this would mean that the value of the inputs would exceed the value of the recycled output which would be a waste of scarce resources.

By Gerard Jackson

Gerard Jackson is Brookes' economics editor.

Copyright © 2008 Gerard Jackson

Gerard Jackson Archive

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24 Jul 08, 09:39
Plastic Bags

Thanks for fighting the good fight. What would we do without the 500 billion possible bin liners that would be stripped from us if they banned super-thin plastic bags. The dark ages before we had this simple luxury, must have simply been horrible, as people were expected to carry around cloth or canvas bags when they wished to shop. Can you imagine the resources these people were wasting on these bags that would last for years, vs the once, maybe twice used super-thin plastic bag. I don't want to even look at the numbers, I can only imagine the resources lost.

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