Thursday, March 29, 2007

Plastic Bags Banned in San Francisco: Milwaukee Squawkers Squawk

So San Francisco has prohibited the larger grocery stores from providing petroleum-derived plastic bags to customers, saving taxpayer dollars on landfill costs and making a small but symbolic step towards energy savings.

Predictably, some Milwaukee AM right-wing radio chatterboxes were yammering on the air immediately, bemoaning the loss of some made-up property right to be offered a plastic bag at the supermarket.

But don't municipalities' elected officials regulate or influence behavior all the the name of the common good, the savings of public money, or both?

Take speed limits, for instance. Or fire codes.

Heck, you need a license from the city to open a grocery store in the first place.

And health inspectors can check how the store is displaying products that are allowed for sale only after having passed earlier approvals for manufacture and distribution by The US Food and Drug Administration, federal agricultural inspectors, and by various state regulators.

Ireland went on a different path in 2002, heavily taxing most plastic shopping bags out of existence; Paris is going to install a ban this year, and countries from Canada to Israel to India to Singapore to South Africa are moving towards some version of a plastic bag ban.

Die-hard plasticophiles can still provide their own, and probably will come around to carrying durable, reusable bags made from paper or other materials (the free market and human inventiveness will surely find wonderful and better bags).

And doing without plastic bags made from $65-dollar-a-barrel oil won't be the end of anyone's world.

Remember: we all got along just fine without plastic grocery bags, and having them go away will not cause the sky to fall on talk radio's Chicken Littles.

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