Should we ban plastic bags? Hmmm. Black Press file photo

COLUMN: Beware of fake plastic creeds

According to these studies’ logic, we should be ditching our jeans for disposable single-use clothes

The question of banning plastic shopping bags is on the agenda in Campbell River, but would the move be good, ecologically speaking? The answer is “Don’t ask me.” The junk does have some benefits and is hard to avoid.

Honestly, the more I hear, the more confused I get. We are now being told plastic bags are less harmful to the environment, especially if people use them to line garbage cans. So say journalists and publications from across the political spectrum. Somehow, this all seems counter-intuitive, which some of the writers have admitted.

I wonder, though, how many have bothered to question the studies? I looked at a couple of prominent ones. I should say my aim is not to debunk these; I have neither the time nor the academic background to examine the methodology – i.e., do these properly account for the effects of the hydrocarbons all the way back to extraction or simply from the point that plastic becomes a byproduct from some other resource extraction?

I can’t say for sure, or whether it should be, but it seems like a question to address up front.

One of these, a UK government study from 2011, says to ensure lower global warming potential, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags should be reused four times compared with 131 times for cotton bags. The study does point to some things it does not take into account, e.g. “any adverse impacts of degradable polymers in the recycling stream.” Take that, marine life!

Earlier this year, a Danish university study echoed the conclusions, though with even more logic-defying numbers: paper bags should be reused 43 times to equal the climate change effects on the LDPE bags. For cotton bags, the number inflates to 149 times for climate change and 20,000 when considering “all other indicators” of the environment. For conventional cloth bags, the numbers are 52 and 7,100 times, respectively.

Do these two studies support each other? Hmmm. For one thing, they’re not consistent on the benefits of paper bags. Maybe every word is true, but if you know how academia works, you should ask whether they were published in peer-reviewed journals (doesn’t look like it) or who the authors are. In the Danish one, the “editors” are from an university environmental engineering department, but it was published by the government rather than in an academic journal, and the review was done by a consulting firm.

In the UK study, also a government document, there is no info about the authors. One works for a large environmental consulting firm whose clients are major corporations. I can find nothing on the other, except that the person might be a design specialist with a business in sustainable packaging. Honestly, it’s not clear.

On top of this, the review team looks like it’s from retail or environmental/business consulting rather than academia.

We should question our assumptions that one material or method is superior to another, e.g. by accounting the enormous resources needed to produce materials like cotton. However, one thing keeps nagging me. According to these studies’ logic, we should be ditching our cotton clothing, such as the blue jeans I’m wearing now, and choosing disposable single-use clothes, maybe even plastic garb.

I could be wrong, but that just seems like so much waste.

Just Posted

Increased rental construction boosts housing starts across Vancouver Island

Rest of the Vancouver Island experiencing spillover effect from Greater Victoria

Sign of the times: Park to be called John Dean and ȽÁU,WELNEW

Adam Olsen confirms park to be named ȽÁU,WELNEW/John Dean Provincial Park

15-year-old Nanaimo singer who had viral Facebook video releases single

Lauren Spencer-Smith recently appeared on American comedian Steve Harvey’s talk show

Meet Clover the Commonwealth Cat

Feline has made Saanich Commonwealth Place a second home

Column: Rest in peace, customer service

Customer service on the phone is often lacking; online it’s nearly non-existent

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Two cats die in house fire in Nanaimo

Fire happened just after 2 p.m. Sunday on Fifth Street, one resident displaced

Most Read