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House Bill 224 – A Paper Bag Ban??

Last week, the General Assembly sent House Bill 130 banning single use plastic bags to Governor John Carney (D) for his signature. House Bill 130 was not a full and complete plastic bag ban. It goes into a effect on January 1, 2021, and it only applies to stores with 7,000 square feet of retail sales space or chains that have three more more locations in the state with each location having a minimum of 3,000 square feet. Restaurants are excluded. So basically, the bill applies to super markets and Walmart and Target and Wawa and other franchise chains, while it does not apply to small businesses like Fairfax Hardware.

Now, for stores like these, the likely replacement bags will be paper bags.

But it appears that Republican Representative Michael Smith has introduced a Paper Bag Ban. Smith’s House Bill 224 prohibits the use of single use paper bags and works to lessen consumption of single use bags in favor of having consumers utilize reusable bags.

Is Smith just being a Republican troll here, or does he have a credible environmental argument to make? My skepticism comes from the fact that plastic bags are not biodegradable whereas paper bags are.

In the bill’s preamble, Smith argues that 1) the production of paper bags has a significant environmental global impact each year; 2) cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which it is estimated resulted in approximately 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year; 3) the belief that paper is better than plastic is not based on science or fact, but on misconceptions about how plastic bags are made, how landfills work, the incidence of plastic litter, and that non-biodegrading products are bad for the planet; 4) paper bags have much greater mass and weigh seven to ten times more than plastic bags, so they add seven to ten times more tonnage to the waste stream. This in turn results in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions; and 5) paper bag manufacturing is more resource-intensive than plastic bag manufacturing.

I am dubious. Yes, I know that paper bags are heavier than plastic bags. So? They aren’t present in the stomachs of fish. They aren’t present in landfills 50 years later. Seeing that Laura Sturgeon and John Kowalko have signed onto this bill makes me open to hearing out arguments on this, but I still feel like this is good Republican trolling.

WHERE IS THE BILL NOW? House Natural Resources 6/14/19

DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS – Brady, Longhurst, Sturgeon, Kowalko, Minor-Brown

REPUBLICAN SPONSORS – Michael Smith, Lopez




26 comments on “House Bill 224 – A Paper Bag Ban??

  1. Mary-Lee

    Paper bags are usually made from trees, so increasing the number of paper bags would mean more trees destroyed. In this time of severe climate change, destroying trees is the last thing anyone should be doing.

    However, it is possible to make paper from materials other than trees. A friend of mine who lives in South Carolina makes paper from kudzu.

    Kudzu is sometimes called the mile a minute plant. It’s not really that bad, but it grows extremely fast and is a real nuisance in the southern part of the country.

    I’d imagine there are many other plants we could use, or we could all carry reusable bags with us, possibly mesh bags that could be thrown in the washer when they get dirty. When I think about it, I wonder how my own mother managed without plastic bags. I wonder how my grandmother managed without paper bags. Surely that information has not been lost in antiquity just yet!

  2. Is this a retribution bill? It does have merit in that trees make paper bags, but petroleum makes plastic and winds up in the oceans. Neither is particularly environment friendly. However, given those two options, paper is way better.

    God forbid consumers be proactive and furnish their own bags. Sacks for produce can be easily made from old t-shirts. I bought 4 large shopping bags made from recycled billboard vinyl, that are incredibly sturdy and have been in use for 8 years now. I bought them from a site that offered seconds and they weren’t even expensive. Easier on the hands for varying too.

  3. Steve Newton

    I’ve talked to Mike about this–he’s actually pretty passionate about both the issues of deforestation and reusable cloth bags.

    • Then why didn’t he introduce this earlier? My strong suspicion is because it’s a payback bill, no matter how “passionate” he is about this.

      Trees = reusable resource. Oil = finite resource.

      The plastic vs. paper arguments trotted out by the plastic industry are self-serving, because they talk about how the products degrade when they’re in a landfill. By definition, plastic bags in cetaceans’ stomachs are not in landfills. And when a paper bag isn’t in a landfill, it degrades quickly, whereas plastic is carried by the wind into the ocean.

      Furthermore, as a Republican, he’s supposedly against this kind of social engineering through legislation. In short, I see nothing here to treat this as anything but Republican trolling.

      • Steve Newton

        Alby the answer I think is that he waited because he did not want it to become an “either/or” and I understand that sponsors of the other bill were not willing to add this to their bill. Here’s the thing–you can have have your opinion (“Trees = reusable resource. Oil = finite resource.”) that differs from his (“deforestation is unacceptable”), but I don’t think that justifies dismissing this as trolling.

        As I said, i’ve spent time talking with him about this (even before he was elected), so I believe he’s genuine about it.

        • “Deforestation is unacceptable” is an opinion, voicing a position that has very little to do with paper bags; clear-cutting isn’t much practiced on this continent, and it’s mostly bark that’s used for paper bags — it’s a by-product of the process used for making higher-grade paper, which is why they’re cutting down trees in the first place. Of course, if pine beetles are going to destroy the Canadian conifer forests anyway, they might end up clear-cutting to make way for species better able to withstand the altered climate.

          Saying that trees are a renewable resource and oil is not is a statement of fact, not an opinion.

          Here’s another fact: The paper-bags-are-just-as-bad meme took hold in part because of a dedicated campaign by the plastic industry. Just google the issue and see how many of the responses to your query come from industry groups. Also note how the actual problem with plastic — that, improperly disposed of it’s much more harmful than paper — is never raised as part of the equation while the relatively modest energy savings in manufacture are touted. As I said before, no whales have paper bags in their stomachs, and no paper bag was found at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

          Here’s an opinion: Smith can be sincere about this, but his GOP colleagues and the fuck-the-libtards right will likely view it as a thumb in the Democrats’ eye rather than a serious proposal.

          • Steve Newton

            @Alby “Saying that trees are a renewable resource and oil is not is a statement of fact, not an opinion.” No, it’s an incomplete first clause written by someone who apparently does not understand the environmental impact of deforestation and the lumber industry practices of monoculture. But if you want to go with moronic, meme-like pronouncements, be my guest.

            I love your last statement–even if Mike is sincere, because his GOP colleague won’t see it that way invalidates anything he’s attempting to do.

            Not one of your better comments. (Leaning toward fact on that, but leaving it at opinion)

            • I understand them just fine. I believe it is you, and perhaps Mr. Smith, who are overstating the amount of clear-cutting that goes in in the lumber industry.

              But if you want to stump for a trolling Republican, be my guest.

              Your opinion of what Mr. Smith is up to is just that. Try to live with the idea that some people think you’re wrong.

  4. Prop Joe

    It would be so awesome if some these numbskulls were as passionate about a $15 minimum wage as they apparently are about what they have to use to carry home their kohlrabi and rhubarb from Jannsens.

  5. Hemp is the answer. No trees cut down, biodegradable and did I mention it grows like a weed?

  6. Paper bags leave a much larger carbon footprint than single use plastic in the process of producing them. Litter is a separate issue from the amount of carbon it takes to produce. Reusable bags are even worse. This is a scientific fact not an argument.

    • But the amount of energy consumed in either process is negligible when considering how much energy is consumed in the manufacturing sector as a whole. It’s a drop in a bucket, therefore a false argument in this debate. Why go after bag manufacturers when lots of industries consume energy and water resources? You know what consumes far more clean water and energy than bag manufacture? Microbreweries. Wanna ban small-scale beer production too?

      Obviously litter is the issue with plastic bags. It’s not about their proper disposal but what happens when they aren’t. As with any law that bans something, the target isn’t most people, it’s a minority of bad actors.

      • What are you ranting about? The discussion was about there being a plastic bag ban and whether it makes sense to ban paper bags too. Try to stay on topic. Constant anger isn’t good for your health given your BMI, idle hands and mind, and your age.

        • cassandram

          anon, policing people here is not your job. You’ve been here with this BS argument before. Carbon footprint is not the bigger issue with plastic, it is it’s lasting legacy in the environment. Even then it is tough to make the case that there is a smaller carbon footprint for something actually made from carbon. Paper can be made from a variety of sources and certainly do not need to be single use. STILL. The issue with plastic bags is that they end up as tree trash or in the stomachs of fish or in other places where they smother out life.

          So you can stay on topic or get gone.

          • The carbon that is spent manufacturing paper and reusable bags is greater than single use plastic. That’s not taking into account the water, pesticides, ground pollution etc. that are spent producing the fiber in commercial operations. Plastic bags can be recycled and technology is already being rolled out to include them in single stream. The carbon spent producing them cannot be taken back.

            Carbon footprint and littering are two different issues. If litter is your issue there are other ways to deal with it. This is common sense. Doesn’t matter if you agree, your feelings aren’t supported by the facts.

            • You just ignored a number of facts I listed so you could expound on how much energy is spent producing paper bags. As I noted, it’s negligible compared with the energy spent producing everything else. Why is energy use only important when we’re talking about bags?

              Doesn’t matter if you agree, you’re just making stupid statements that don’t reflect reality. It doesn’t matter if there are “other ways of dealing with it.” The fact is that plastic is everywhere, a lot of it from bags (far more than from plastic straws, for example).

              Ill-informed environmentalism is worse than no environmentalism at all.

              • cassandram

                Every step of manufacturing involves carbon — it won’t matter if you are making plastic, paper or cloth bags. For plastic you have to add in the fact that you make the *entire bag* out of carbon.If you cared about carbon footprint or emissions you would be here telling us you’ve stopped driving. But all we got is a guess as to how much of a carbon footprint you’ve created spinning up this bullshit.

                • You can ignore scientific facts but the science is still there. Not going to spoon feed you. Simple Google search will show you the mountain of evidence and why these feel-good bills have the opposite effect on the environment. No need to be angry it is ok to be wrong about this.

                  • I’m not ignoring the fact. It’s obvious that plastic is cheaper, which is why it’s all the things you claim. What you haven’t shown is that these facts are germane to the discussion.

                    You’ll have to provide links to the “opposite effect on the environment” claim. I’m not going to search for industry propaganda. I have you for that.

                    No need to be an asshole. It’s OK for you to be a pathetic industry shill.

                • meatball

                  Technically, paper is made of 100% carbon as well.

        • Go fuck yourself, troll.

        • The issue isn’t paper or plastic, it’s whether Mr. Smith was trolling Democrats or is sincere. As I pointed out, though it went over Prof. Newton’s head, even if he is sincere his caucus will take it as a beautiful way to troll Democrats as well. Win-win.

          He had better be careful, though. A similar too-clever-by-half gambit brought Delaware its indoor smoking ban when the bluff was called.

          • cassandram

            If Mr. Smith was serious about his concerns, this bill would be a ban on paper bags AND a tax credit for reusable ones. The lack of a tax credit is the tell, I’m thinking.

  7. Just to be clear about this: If Mr. Smith were serious about eliminated unnecessary carbon footprints, he should be going after bottled water. Far more energy is spent shipping a commodity that virtually everyone already has in their homes than is spent manufacturing and shipping paper bags.

    To make bags the only issue on which we will ban a product that uses energy might be useful to your argument, but it’s no way to live.

  8. That manufacturing plastic bags uses less energy than paper is simply another way of describing the fact that plastic bags are cheaper to produce, which is why they replaced paper in the first place.

    This entire line of reasoning is a plastic industry framing of the debate.

    To blame paper bags for clearcutting, as Prof. Newton does, is to lay all the sins of the paper industry on a tiny byproduct of paper production. This would be like blaming plastic bags for all the ills of petroleum, which nobody does.

    Now let’s play counter-factual: Let’s say Rep. Smith’s bill passes. It won’t, and everyone including him knows it, but say it does. Now stores are going to tell people good luck getting your groceries home? Everyone will have to use reusable bags (I do, but I’m not everyone) because you can’t use paper or plastic? And I’m supposed to believe that Rep. Smith is doing this out of deep concern for the environment? There aren’t even any Democrats in Delaware who would be that myopic on the issue (excepting those who signed on as co-sponsors), but I’m supposed to believe a Republican is?

    Common sense dictates that one option must remain.

    You want to know the tell here? The bill itself. “The purpose of the bill, as detailed in the preamble, is to further clean up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds, wildlife and humans, and the ecosystem’s food chain.”

    Not a single aim of this bill has anything to do with Delaware. No Delaware watersheds or wildlife will be spared anything, because we don’t harvest timber for paper in Delaware. Paper bags don’t add to trash-management costs. I virtually never see paper-bag litter along the roads when bicycling. Animals don’t accidentally eat paper bags.

    Further, if Rep. Smith and his co-sponsors (looking at you, Sturgeon and Kowalko) were serious about “work[ing] to lessen consumption of single use bags in favor of having consumers utilize reusable bags,” as the bill claims, they would attach tax penalties for failure to use them (where I shop, they give a 2-cent credit to people who use their own bags). The bill does nothing of the sort.

    Hence the conclusion that this is, at best, a feel-good proposal, and at worst an attempt to paint Democrats as “hypocrites” on the issue for banning plastic but not paper. Rep. Smith’s personal feelings about paper bags don’t really move the needle for me, though obviously mileage on that varies.

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