Bruce Bialosky

Both sides of the political debate think the other is way off in their thought patterns. The Left loves to repeat their mantra that the Right is ignorant of science. Unfortunately, it proves out that the left frequently blindly adheres to a policy developed to forward their agenda and then shames everyone else into myopically following their policies or asserts they are Neanderthals. This is the exact pattern they have followed in attempting to spread a ban of plastic bags at retailers.

I first became interested in this when I saw the burgeoning flock of do-gooders coming to the grocery store with their “reusable bags.” I would ask the store personnel how they allowed these bags to be placed on counters where my food would travel. How could the store allow a bag – which they had no idea of its prior whereabouts (i.e., the car trunk) or about when it had been last washed -- on the counter where food was being conveyed?

The bags my family took home were being used to line our trash cans or for other purposes, but almost always reused. So playing the do-gooder, I would speak to the ladies walking into the store and commend them for their environmental sensitivity for using “reusable bags.” Now that I had raised their self-esteem because someone had noticed their civic mindedness, I would then ask the ladies what they used to line their trash cans in the house. The response was always an impish “plastic trash can liners.”

When the City of West Hollywood in California enacted their own law against plastic bags, we decided to take a closer look at their decision making process. The elements of the policy, which is modeled after laws passed in other communities throughout California and other “forward looking locales,” are as follows:

1. Retail establishments are banned from using plastic bags except where specifically exempted. Restaurants and “Farmers’ markets” are exempted.

2. Retailers are encouraged to make “reusable bags” available for purchase.

3. Retailers must charge 10 cents for each paper bag supplied to the customer. Customers receiving various forms of welfare including food stamps are exempted from this charge. All funds are to be retained by the retailer to help “offset the cost” of stocking bags.

I contacted the person who sent out the letter to my business. John Berndt, Senior Code Compliance Officer, seemed to not be very knowledgeable about the issue. When I asked him about what procedures were in place regarding the cleanliness of the “reusable bags,” he stated his job was to enforce the ordinance and nothing was in the ordinance to address that. When I spoke to Jeffrey Aubel, Manager of the Code Compliance Division, he laughed at my question about “reusable bags.” He passed me on to Melissa Antol, Long Range and Mobility Planning Manager. Before I had a discussion with Ms. Antol, I received 267 pages of documents regarding the passing of the ordinance and the environmental impact report (EIR).

The EIR had no mention of the environmental impact of “reusable bags.” That appeared to be odd. They had a couple hundred pages on environmental impact of plastic bags, but not one word about their replacement. After all one would think they might consider the usage of water to clean the bags or the impact of disinfectants to cleanse the bags draining into the sewer system. There was not a word except some references to the main authority on “reusable bags,” which is an operation named Green Seal (you can tell where this is heading.)

I contacted the operation through their website. I spoke to Dr. Arthur Weissman, President and CEO of Green Seal. When I asked him about what information he had about the environmental impact of “reusable bags” he spoke of the construction of the bags. I asked since his operation recommended the construction of the bags produce at least 300 uses did he not consider the effects of the water and disinfectants used to wash the bags. He reacted as if I asked him if he was having sex with Britney Spears. He stated “I am not concerned at all about the health concerns of reusable bags.”

I then contacted Sarah Sheehy, Director Local Government Relations for the California Groceries Association. I was stupefied that she had submitted a letter on behalf of the Association supporting the ban – stupid me. I asked her if she had ever surveyed her customers regarding the reuse of the paper bags and plastic bags they handed out to carry out groceries. She said no. When I stated I had done an informal survey of over one hundred people and all of them reused the bags, she stated she had no further comment. When I asked if she had ever seen a study of the viruses in “reusable bags,” she stated she had “a while ago.” I then asked if she had any comment on the studies. She said “I am sure there are studies that debunk those studies.’” To which I replied “Wow! Are you sure you want to say that? How do you know there are other studies?” She replied “I have no further comment on that.” She then stated we encourage our customers to wash their “reusable bags.” When asked where that was because I have never seen it in any stores I shop at, she replied “I have no further comment, this interview is over.”

Here are the facts folks:

1. Scientists from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University collected “reusable bags” from people entering grocery stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tucson. Though the sample was not huge, they found bacteria in 99% of the “reusable bags.” They found no bacteria in new bags or plastic bags. Hand or machine washing reduced bacteria in 99.9% of “reusable bags.” They found through their tests and interviews that consumers almost never washed their “reusable bags.” They cite that 76,000,000 cases of foodborne illness occur in the U.S. annually. Since almost all occur in the home, the pinpointing to a “reusable bag” would be limited.

2. A study done by APCO which surveyed 502 people found that 92% reused the bags they brought home from the store for such things as trash disposal, lunch bags and cleaning up after pets.

The people who moan about bags being washed to sea and choking fish are doing this without consideration of the impact of their change. They are blindly following a formula without scientifically analyzing the ramifications of their actions. They are lying about the frequency that the banned bags were reused. There will still be millions of bags issued at grocery stores, restaurants and other exempt entities to carry out product, and stupid insensitive people will continue to throw those bags into improper places.

The groceries stores are totally in cahoots with these do-gooders. They no longer have to supply plastic bags. The pager bags -- which cost them about 8.5 cents -- will now be sold for 10 cents. They will be selling “reusable bags” and their sales of trash can liners will soar as people will have a new need for them and those bags will truly be single-use bags. When their customers complain, the grocers will point their fingers at the government who created these bans and blame the politicians while the groceries pocket all these new-found dollars.

The governmental wonks will continue their lies about the great harms of plastic bags. They will blame all the landfills on those bags, refer to them as “single-use bags,” falsely cite how few are reused, and contrive some number of bags (500) that each American can save annually by the use of “reusable bags.”

My suggestion is the next time you go grocery shopping and someone slaps down their bags which were washed in some former lifetime that they dragged out of their trunk, you ask your grocer to clean the belt before your food starts moving down. Rather be safe than sorry.


Bruce Bialosky

Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former Presidential appointee. You can contact Bruce at bruce@bialosky.biz