What are Some Arguments Against Plastic Bag Leglislation?

Plastic bag lobbyists have, are, and will continue to argue against a fee or ban on plastic bags.

We must equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge to effectively counter their arguments.

Argument 1)  There’s a disproportionate impact on low-income customers.
  • First, this argument is based on the assumption that people of a lower economic status do not care about the health of our environment and will not be proactive in this regard due to their economic status.  In actuality, there is a strong argument that consumers of lower income brackets adapt to a fee faster than more affluent counterparts, because they are more motivated to avoid paying it.
  • In terms of true regressive taxes, lower-income consumers feel increased pressure today due to “both the cost of bags currently embedded in the price of food and by taxes in the form of costs to clean up litter”2. A bag fee that would lower bag costs to retailers and reduce little is actually putting more control in the hands of the consumer, because it is our choice if we decide to pay it or not.
  • L.A. County found that its ordinance provides each consumer the ability to save approximately $18 to $30 per year.  (2)
  • To maximize this amount, there must be a strong focus on encouraging low-income customers to bring their own reusable bags to the store. One method would be through city-sponsored reusable bag giveaways.
Argument 2)  Plastic bags can be recycled.
  • Yes, plastic bags can theoretically be recycled, but the reality is that less than 6% of them are.  (6)  
  • Not only that, but plastic bag collection is difficult and far from cost effective.  
  • In fact, cities that have opted for voluntary recycling programs, “found little impact over multiple years, wasted taxpayer money, and eventually led to the implementation of bans”.  (2)
Argument 3)  Plastic bag legislation will lead to manufacturing job loss.
  • Another “study” claimed that bag reduction legislation was bad for retail stores, causing a negative financial impact on the businesses.  
  • In reality?  The study was based on survey responses from only 3% of stores.  (2)
Argument 4)  Reusable bags are breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.
  • One biased study found that a very small group of consumers in a trial rarely washed their reusable bags and that, in turn, some of their bags contained bacteria.  
  • Consumer Reports responded, concluding that the bacteria found was minimal and that 84 bags was too small of a sample size to have any statistical significance.  (2)


Are plastic bag fees effective?