This past session, the Iowa Legislature banned banning plastic bags in the state. Yes, Iowa is now a pro-plastic bag state and cities are not allowed to ban them. I am not sure why a state would forbid banning plastic bags. I wrote to my state representative and asked him for some explanation. So far, no answer.
Plastic bags came about in the 1960s and their use skyrocketed in the 80s and 90s. The ANS Plastics company claims that they make a good proportion of these bags in the US. AEP Industries is another player in the bag market. Are these companies in Iowa? No. New Jersey. So we can’t say that we are protecting our state’s economy with this ban. Or can we? I dug a little further. We have prisoners make plastic bags here in Iowa. There’s a small company that makes them as well. However, the pesky things are expensive. The average grocery store spends between $1,500-$6,000 per month on them and passes the costs on to us.
A group called ALEC was allegedly behind the bag ban ban. They say it is anti-consumer to ban plastic bags. VP Mike Pence is in favor of forbidding plastic bag bans. ALEC has not gotten its way in all places–cities such as Los Angeles and Dublin, Ireland have done away with plastic bags. In fact, they have recently been banned in all of California. Some countries such as England tax the bags.
So why do places wish to ban them? Many who ban them cite their ugliness. Iowa is filled with them flying on fences as if they are the state flag. They can strangle wildlife. They plug sewers. They release toxins into our water.
A recent study even says that they diminish oxygen in marshes, harming the aquatic animals by suffocating them even if they don’t become ensnared. They keep algae from producing chlorophyll. It doesn’t matter if the bags are pure plastic or biodegradable. They kill the life of the pond. They are then, anti-fishing.
Arlington,Massachusetts just voted to ban plastic bags. Journalist and writer Laura Kiesel –who has a Master’s degree in natural resources and environmental policy–explains the vote this way:
“Plastic bags are the single most common item on the planet and we use and dispose of 100 billion every year in the United States (to put that in perspective, that’s double the amount of plastic bottles). Here in Arlington, we use and throw out 1 million monthly. Plastic bags devastate marine ecosystems, killing well over 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles annually, while plastic waste is responsible for the endangerment of nearly 300 species. For those animals plastic bags don’t kill, their toxins enter their bloodstream and become part of the food chain, where they enter our own bodies and that of our children. Plastic bags have an extremely low recycling rate (<5%), while recycling the bags is actually an environmentally hazardous process that often takes place in low income communities here and abroad where they shoulder the health burden of our consumer choices. This is why we need to phase out these harmful bags in favor of more sustainable, equitable and humane options. The ban would cover plastic bags offered at points of purchase (checkout) only and has a long phase in period (well over a year) for small businesses. Paper bags would not be regulated.”
However, here in Iowa, it’s bags away! As things look now, global demand for plastic bags is increasing. Like them or not, a lot more of these flags will be flying world-wide.