Alameda County

Feb 202013

I wonder if someone will do a study on the environmental and economic impacts of the plastic bag ban imposed in Alameda County.

The report by, on which the ban was based, acknowledge the lack of reliable data and predicted, if anything, that the results of the ban would be mixed.

So far this has been my experience:

– there is less plastic bag litter on the streets

– I hate having to pay for bags which I used to get for free, so I no longer make “spur of the moment”  purchases or buy more stuff than I can fit into the bags I’ve brought with me.  If other people are like me, I can imagine this will reduce sales at Grocery stores and similar businesses.  On the other hand, they are now getting paid 10-cents for a bag they used to give away for free, so maybe it’ll even out.

– Checkers at Grocery Outlet tell me that about 40% of people bring their own bags and the other 60% buy their plastic “reusable” bags.  These are just like the harder-plastic bags you’d get at a boutique.  It’d be interesting to know what people do with these after they bring them home.  If they just throw them in the garbage empty, they’re light enough to fly away once the garbage is deposited at the dump.

– I haven’t asked the checkers, but most people at the supermarket seem to be buying the paper bags.  According to the report this can have detrimental environmental consequences, given how much water and resources are required to produce paper bags and how they produce greenhouses when deposited in landfills (though apparently we have some waste plants that use the methane from landfills for power).

In any case, I hope that the County will look into the impacts of the ban a year from now, and see if it made good or bad public policy.