90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Should Supermarket Plastic Bags Be Banned?

Randy Ritchey loads a plastic bag of groceries into the cart of Marianne Nielsen at the Fred Meyer store in Grants Pass, Ore. in January 2011. (Jeff Barnard/AP)

An increasing number of communities are banning the super-thin plastic bags commonly found in supermarkets. But what’s the alternative? Critics say paper bags may have a higher environmental cost.

Brookline, Mass., Aspen, Colo. and Austin, Texas, are among the cities and towns that have bans on plastic bags. Portland, Oreg. and Baltimore are among the places considering such bans.

Bangladesh banned the bags in 2002 because they clogged storm drains and caused flooding. China did the same in 2008, eliminating 40 billion bags per year and saving the 11.7 million barrels of oil it would have taken to make them, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Italy has also banned plastic bags.

Ireland, which charges a fee for plastic bags, says it has slashed the use of the bags by 90 percent. But there’s also evidence that people in Ireland are buying more – and thicker – plastic bags, for purposes once served by the free supermarket bags, for example lining garbage cans.

While China boasts its oil savings, critics of the bans on plastic bags argue that it takes more energy to create paper bags than plastic ones.

Meantime, plastic bag opponents counter that the energy use doesn’t matter, since it’s the afterlife of the plastic bag that is most harmful: blowing out of landfills and killing many thousands of marine animals that ingest them.

Would you be on board with a ban on plastic bags? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Guests:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

March 31 77 Comments

Is The News Losing Its Appeal?

Young people are spending less time consuming news than previous generations, according to Pew Research Center.

March 31 Comment

U.S. Tennis Association CEO Hopes To Spread Love Of Game

Katrina Adams, the association's youngest and first black CEO, talks about her goals to draw people – old and young – into the game.

March 30 38 Comments

Sen. Warren: Not Interested In Reid's Job And Still Not Running For President

Elizabeth Warren insists she has no plans to jump into the 2016 race. She joins us to discuss her current political goals.

March 30 8 Comments

Unveiling The Pain Of Secondary Trauma Victims

Mac McClelland was diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing another woman's horror at being brutally assaulted. She joins us to explain why she didn't believe the diagnosis, at first.