Grocery shopping is soon to become more of a hassle, particularly for the large families in our community whose weekly supermarket purchases can easily fill a dozen or more bags. New York has become the second state, after California, to approve a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags, which is scheduled to take effect next March. (Stores may still choose to offer paper bags, subject to a five-cent fee at the option of municipalities.)
We all care about our earthly home, and must do our part to protect it from continuing damage. And we’ve heard about how our oceans have become laden with plastic, harming marine life and threatening our natural resources.
But there’s a smart, research-backed way to do things. This, however, is an overbroad, potentially detrimental approach that’s as much about scoring liberal brownie points – as New York has been angling to do at every turn – as it is prudent policy-making.
Growing families on a budget will either have to shell out money for paper bags where available – and research shows those have a much larger carbon footprint – or invest in reusable cloth or other bags. Those have their own drawbacks: With reuse, they can become a breeding ground for germs, and many do not biodegrade easily when they are eventually thrown out. And of course, you have to carry them with you whenever you plan to shop.
Alternatives exist. Shopping bags made from so-called bioplastics – derived from things like sugar cane, corn, or cellulose – are more environmentally friendly and biodegradable, indistinguishable from the bags we’re used to, and increasingly affordable, and would thus be a prudent way to address the plastic bag issue without inconveniencing consumers.
Unfortunately, New York has chosen to go with a sweeping approach that is garnering headlines and cheap applause, but at the expense of local businesses and families.