According to David Tyler, sustainability expert and professor at the University of Oregon, “The carbon footprint — that is, the amount of greenhouse gas that is produced during the life cycle of a plastic bag — is less than that of a paper bag or a cotton tote bag. If the most important environmental impact you wanted to alleviate was global warming, then you would go with plastic.”

Douglas Rooks recently wrote an opinion column advocating for plastic bag bans to combat climate change (“Attack climate change locally,” Feb 14). As a representative of the plastic bag manufacturers and recyclers, the industry shares his concern for protecting the planet for future generations.

However, the science is very clear. American-made plastic retail bags are 100 percent recyclable and made from a byproduct of natural gas refining, not petroleum. And the vast majority of plastic retail bags used in the United States are produced domestically.

Rooks says that plastic products are contributing to climate change. However, every life cycle assessment of shopping bags shows that plastic bags are the most environmentally friendly option. For example, a February 2018 study from Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency found that some cotton/canvas bags require nearly 3,000 uses to offset their carbon footprint. As the study said, “Lightweight plastic carrier bags provide the absolute best environmental performance.” Similar studies from Quebec, United Kingdom, and Clemson University came to the same conclusion.

We are proud of our industry’s sustainability efforts, including pioneering the store take-back programs that created the drop off locations for recycling plastic bags and other types of plastic film. Climate change is a big problem that will require a big solution, but pushing people towards products that are less environmentally friendly is not the answer.

 

Matt Seaholm

executive director

American Progressive Bag Alliance

Arlington, Virginia

 

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