California Governor Gavin Newsom last month approved legislation that will ban single-use plastic pre-checkout bags in 2025 as an “environmentally friendly” measure. SB-1046 builds on existing law which prohibits stores from offering single-use plastic bags at checkout.
“This bill would additionally prohibit, on and after January 1, 2025, a store, as defined, from providing a precheckout bag to a customer if the bag is not either a compostable bag, as described, or a recycled paper bag,” reads the bill. “The bill would define a ‘precheckout bag’ for this purpose to mean a bag provided to a customer before the customer reaches the point of sale, that is designed to protect a purchased item from damaging or contaminating other purchased items in a checkout bag, or to contain an unwrapped food item.”
However, single-use plastic bags remain a more environmentally friendly option than most other bags, as previously reported by America’s Frontline News.
Figures presented by Our World in Data show the “number of times a given grocery bag type would have to be reused to have as low an environmental impact as a standard single-use plastic bag.” According to the data, an organic cotton shopping bag would have to be reused 20,000 times to match a plastic bag in environmental impact. A conventional cotton bag would have to be reused 7,100 times and a composite bag 870 times.
The site lists seven more categories which require less uses, but none as harmless as a plastic bag, including recycled PET (84 reuses), polypropylene, non-woven, recycled (52 reuses), polypropylene, woven, recycled (45 reuses), bleached paper (43 reuses), unbleached paper (43 reuses), biopolymer (42 reuses), and polyester PET, recycled (35 reuses).
Similarly, the compostable bags mentioned in the California bill, which are a favorite among “environmentalists” due to their organic materials and biodegradability, are not the “climate change cure” California claims them to be.
According to environmental think tank Ecobahn, most compostable packaging can only be biodegraded in an industrial facility.
“Compostable packaging, for example, generally requires an industrial facility to heat the plastic to a high enough temperature for microbes to break it down, in combination with measured levels of oxygen and moisture,” says the organization. “Home composting systems are unable to provide these conditions – meaning that most compostable packages will not break down in any useful timeframe.”
Given that, compostable plastics present a greater threat to the environment than carbon dioxide.
“When sent to landfill, compostable plastics are deprived of the light and oxygen needed to decompose, and can instead release significant levels of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And when compostable packaging ends up in the ocean, the results are virtually the same as traditional oil-based plastics[.]”