San Francisco, California implemented the very first ban on plastic bags in chain grocery stores and drugstores in 2007. And like all other good intentions, the ban has its unintended consequences. When the ban was implemented, food born illness emergency room admissions increased. A study, study produced by the Institute for Law and Economics – a joint project of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Wharton School, and the Department of Economics in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, found that the ban caused an increase of 46% in the number of food born illness deaths. (President Obama – ‘If there is even one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try’: statement comes to mind here. )
Last year, other California cities opted for San Francisco type plastic bag bans, including Los Angeles. And with the new L.A., ban came this event reported in the L.A. Times.
“A reusable grocery bag left in a hotel bathroom caused an outbreak of norovirus induced diarrhea and nausea that struck nine of 13 members of a girls’ soccer team in October.”
A 2011 research report from the International Association for Food Protection, studying reusable cloth bags from Arizona and California found more than half contained coliform bacteria.
The potential of death and illness notwithstanding, the ban continues. In Colorado’s iconic town of Aspen, it’s a completely different story about plastic bags. Beginning in May of 2012, the city passed an ordinance banning plastic bags completely. Grocery stores are prohibited from providing single use plastic bags to their customers. Paper bags are available at a cost of .20/each, and of course you can bring your reusable tote bags for your purchased items. Prior to the ordinance taking effect, the city of Aspen was giving away reusable bags to residents to assist in the transition. Store managers say the transition has been easy, and the real test of the new ordinance will come with the influx of summer tourists, who may not be aware of the new ordinance.
Early in 2012 the City of Boulder Colorado began looking at options to the outright banning of plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail establishments. Since then the Boulder City Council has approved, beginning in July 2013, a .10/fee on paper and plastic bags used by consumers. The usage fee applies to convenience stores, food retailers and local grocery stores.
Who knew a trip to the grocery store could be so hazardous to your health.