A Kansas Senate committee made the right move Thursday when it rejected a bill that would have prevented local governments from banning plastic shopping bags.
And now it’s time for Wichita to step up and show the same kind of common sense and Not ban them.
I know it sounds contradictory, but hear me out.
Plastic bags have their place. We would be ill-served by a blanket ban, as some in Wichita are pushing, while we would be equally ill-served by the all-no-intervention approach contemplated in defunct Senate Bill 47.
We need a more nuanced approach.
No one could seriously argue that used bags flying around aren’t at least a nuisance and an environmental nightmare at worst, except perhaps the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the driving force behind SB47.
On my 10-mile commute to work this morning, I counted 16 free-range plastic bags; in trees, blasted against fences, in puddles in the gutter, and under the Kellogg Highway overpass. And like any good citizen, it makes me angry to see him.
But we can’t let anger override our better judgment. An outright bag ban would be a gross excess, a bit like using a nuclear missile to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon.
It might address the immediate problem, but create other, potentially bigger problems downstream.
The City of Wichita is, right now, conducting a survey on its Facebook page about what it calls single-use plastic bags.
But “disposable” is a misnomer.
I — and pretty much everyone else I know — take my groceries home in the free bags from the store and then take the trash out in those same bags.
Throw away the take-home bags and you’ll see a corresponding increase in purchases of trash bags that contain more plastic per bag.
Researchers at the University of Georgia took a look at California and found that when take-home bags were banned, sales of four-gallon garbage bags increased by 55% to 75%, while sales of eight-gallon garbage bags increased 87% to 110%. .
In lower-volume stores, the additional sales of four-gallon bags added 30 to 135 pounds of plastic waste per store per month. Sales of eight-gallon garbage bags created an additional 37-224 lbs. That script only rolled out to big stores that generate at least 326 takeout bags a day.
I only remember once releasing a plastic bag into the wild.
I had bought some parts at the auto store and while I was lying under the car installing the said parts, a Kansas dust devil blew up and collected the bag the parts came in. he was gone baby gone somewhere, probably Pratt.
I felt bad about that then and actually still do.
But to continue the car analogy, if I buy five gallons of motor oil, a bottle of brake fluid, and a dip can for parts, yes, I want a bag to carry it. If I buy a water pump, just pass me the box. I don’t need a purse. It’s redundant.
But it seems that whatever you buy, the universal cashier’s default is to automatically put it in a plastic bag.
Not long ago I bought a memory chip for my phone. The tiny chip arrived blister-packed on paper containing at least 100 times more plastic than the mass of the chip itself. At checkout, the cashier put it in a plastic bag.
If you go grocery shopping, a pound of hamburger goes in one bag, canned goods in another, paper products in a third, etc. etc.
Perhaps the city could contact the stores and ask them to pack a little tighter to reduce the number of bags. For single items such as a packet of toilet paper, do not bag it unless the customer requests it.
Stores could place messages on screens in their self-checkout lanes, asking shoppers to minimize the use of bags. I think the vast majority of people would, if reminded of it at the point of sale.
It’s at least worth a try, before hopping on the next bus to Bansville.