The Ridiculous Death Threat

April 8, 2013 by Peggy | Comments Off on The Ridiculous Death Threat

Did you read it in the newspaper recently? Deaths in San Francisco Spike—Bag Bans to Blame!  It might be scary if it were true.

Red Reusable Bag with Produce

Via Flickr. CC Attribution, Non-commercial, Share -alike by MD Anderson’s Focused on Health

The “big scoop” arises from a study commissioned by the American Chemistry Council (a trade group that represents plastic manufacturers) of 84 reusable bags used for grocery shopping that were tested in Arizona in 2009. The bags were sampled for the following bacteria: listeria, salmonella and E. coli.  No listeria or salmonella were found, but E. coli was found in seven bags.  What kind of E. coli? Dr. Susan Fernyak, director of San Francisco’s Communicable Disease and Control Prevention division, was interviewed by NPR and stated that the study failed to identify the type of E. coli in the bags, “a significant shortcoming.”  According to the CDC, most strains of E. coli are harmless.

Nevertheless, those philosophically and financially opposed to bag bans have made much of the American Chemistry Council study and it keeps popping up, years later, and needing to be aired out all over again.

In 2012, a lawyer/economist named Jonathan Klick and a colleague, Joshua Wright, suggested a link between San Francisco’s plastic bag ban and the city’s death rate from foodborne illness. I find this dramatic video risible, but if you can believe it, blogger Andrew Sullivan had linked to it in a post last year (that’s how I first came to see this), with the shocking “news” of a reusable bag health crisis occurring in San Francisco. 

In early February of this year, conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru published an opinion piece in the Denver Post entitled “The Disgusting Consequences of Plastic-Bag Bans” re-hashing the ACC study and hyping the death threat angle. (“Klick and Wright estimate that the San Francisco [bag] ban results in a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses….”) This time San Francisco’s Department of Public Health felt compelled to respond with a detailed memo to illustrate unequivocally that Klick and Wright’s conclusion was “not warranted.”

In spite of this, Professor Klick (he teaches at Penn Law) is still out there promoting his hypothesis that reusable bags pose a serious health risk. The March/April 2013 issue of the Penn Gazette features Klick’s  outlandish speculation in an article titled “Getting to the Bottom of the Bag,” and of course makes no mention of the San Francisco Department of Health’s take down. champions the BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable) ethic, so we love reusable bags.  Bringing your own shopping bag is one of the most effective ways to limit unnecessary waste of resources and to reduce environmental damage, human health effects and pollution associated with the life cycle of plastics.

To ensure your bags aren’t harboring any bad bacteria it’s a good idea to wash them periodically with soap and water. Another good way to avoid risk of foodborne illness is to wash or cook your food, and wash your hands before eating. But we bet you already knew that.

Plastic’s Getting Old

January 5, 2012 by Peggy | Comments Off on Plastic’s Getting Old

As we begin the New Year, we look forward to starting afresh. Perhaps we have in mind developing better habits, achieving a particular goal, or experiencing new things. I’ll be working on shedding plastic from my life. First a novelty, then a convenience, and now a plague – throw-away plastics have become (for me, anyway) an emblem of what ails us. The Guardian published a piece this week on the “wave of revulsion” that plastic bags have triggered globally, noting that a growing awareness of plastic pollution is resulting in worldwide efforts to ban or tax the plastic bag.

The Impact of Plastic Bags – from ‘Message in the Waves’ by Rebecca Hosking.

The Guardian’s article credits the efforts of a single person, Rebecca Hosking, with getting the ball rolling on plastic bag bans.  Hosking, a British filmmaker who co-produced a nature film about  the Hawaiian islands for the BBC in 2006, visited the Midway atoll, and was appalled by what she found there. (You can see her entire 48 minute documentary, Hawaii: Message in the Waves, online).  When she returned home to her town of Modbury, she successfully committed herself to ending the distribution of disposable plastic bags by every retail establishment there.

As it happens, the Hawaii County Council just this week voted to ban plastic bags used at all check-out stands on the Big Island. Kauai and Maui counties already have bag bans in place. If Hawaii’s Mayor Billy Kenoi signs the bill into law, Honolulu will be the only county in the state that has yet to enact similar legislation.  Go for it, Hawaii, trashy plastics have no place in paradise!

UPDATE:  On January 18, 2012, The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported on Mayor Kenoi’s decision to “ok” the plastic bag ban.  The law, authored by Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, will go into effect in 2013, allowing for transition time and further education on the issue.  Wrote Mayor Kenoi, “In the end this bill is not about plastic bags, politics or the Hawaii City Council.  It’s about protecting our beautiful island.”

UPDATE: March 25, 2012, Honolulu enacts legislation to ban single-use plastic bags which will take effect July 1, 2015.  This makes the state of Hawaii the first to have statewide restrictions on plastic bags.

January 1, 2012
by Peggy
Comments Off on January 1st: Bag Ban Ordinances In Effect in Bay Area

January 1st: Bag Ban Ordinances In Effect in Bay Area

Today marks the day that grocers in the unincorporated areas of Marin County will no longer be able to distribute single-use plastic bags. Recycled paper bags may be purchased for a five cent fee per bag.  The goal is to … Continue reading