Opinion Web Exclusive

Plastic bag banning may cause more problems

paper vs plastic

Kirin Daniels/The Cougar

For several years, there have been debates across the country about the banning of plastic bags, and the ban has recently gained momentum with it being passed statewide for the first time in California.

Recently, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s first statewide ban of plastic bags. The governor believes the ban will help with pollution in the streets and waterways.

“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Many environmentalists consider this a huge milestone towards protecting the environment and getting rid of some pollution; environmentalists also believe this will help get the law passed in several other states faster.

Some activists have successfully pushed bans in large cities across the country such as Chicago, Austin and Seattle.

According to CBS News, plastic bags can take between 400 to 1,000 years to break down. It also does not help that only 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled across the country.

Pre-pharmacy sophomore Mariah Alvarez said she that believes plastic bags are the least of environmentalists’ problems.

“I think it is a great idea, but I don’t really know how that will help the environment,” Alvarez said.

“When you go outside and look at the litter on the street, it is more than just plastic bags. It’s stuff like plastic cups and paper. But if (the law) was passed in a state then plastic bags must be a huge issue.”

Although this is a major milestone for environmentalists, all factors must be considered when it comes to the impact of this law. Some people will lose their jobs because the law will cause many plastic bag factories to close down in the state. The law will also impact low income families who cannot afford to pay 10 to 25 cents per paper bag every time they purchase something at a store.

Saving the environment is important, but considering the pros and cons of this ban makes it questionable if it should be mandatory. The ban may cause more problems for people, which will only add to the long list of issues our government is already dealing with.

“I think it’s a good idea. I think the transition to it is going to be difficult because people aren’t used to having to use paper bags or providing their own bags,” said biology sophomore Emily Joslin. “If we switch to paper bags, that’s just going to cause more problems with cutting down trees and things. It’s going to be another issue, the transitions going to be difficult and it’s going to take some time to get used to.”

Officials are trying to work through the specifics of the law to make sure it will be satisfactory to all. The ban is set to be in effect in 2016 for Cali. and many think the law needs a lot of work before it is implemented.

The adjustment may be hard, but Houston shoppers should take the ban into consideration. Major Texas cities such as Dallas and Austin have already passed the ban, and other cities across the state are considering the ban as well.

According to KHOU, the ban was previously presented to Houston’s council in 2012 and caused such an uproar from citizens that the council decided not to go any further with the ordinance. However, the ordinance may come up again as a country-wide ban becomes more of a popular issue.

Saving our environment is always great, but if it’s going to add stress to consumers and their budget, states should consider other alternatives. Our economy is not in stable condition right now and that alone stresses consumers.

The other alternatives to helping save the environment include unplugging devices, switching to compact florescent or LED light bulbs and returning plastic bags back to the store after you use them to be recycled.

While there is no ban in the city of Houston nor a state wide ban in Texas, there are ways one can help save our environment.

One can start by being a cautious consumer. When you are at the store, ask yourself how this purchase will impact the environment.

The process of saving our environment will not happen overnight. Every day our nation is taking huge steps toward reduced pollution and cleaner streets. By simply recycling every day, you can also make a huge impact towards keeping our environment cleaner.

Opinion columnist Faith Alford is a journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]



  • Plastic Technology. You improve plastic, not ban it. If I were to regulate something that is made of plastic that are being swallowed more by the sea birds, it would be the bottle caps. All bottle caps need to be modified to be tethered to the bottle with a flexible strap. The upper cap unscrews to offer a comfortable drinking. Or use the non-removable *sports cap” where the spout can be lifted to open and pressed down to close. All bottle caps should never be separated from the bottle.

    • Well then as soon as someone invents biodegradable plastic bags then we can repeal the ban. Good idea about the bottle caps. Unfortunately the only way to get companies to make these types of changes is it incentivize them. That’s why we need bans or collective boycotts.

  • As a bio student, Joslin should be aware that the vast majority of paper today comes from mills and tree farms which reuse the same land, not deforestation. Plus paper biodegrades and is much easier to recycle. If you don’t want to pay the extra fee for paper bags you can use reusable cloth bags.

  • Banning plastic bags is, and continues to be an excellent idea. Buying a reusable, 4$ cloth bag is not the end of the world. You are in this way saving hundreds of bags from being sent to dumps.

    • One problem I have seen here in California with the reusable plastic bags is that individuals on EBT are exempt from paying the ten cent fee. You would think they would bring the reusable bags back to the store when they shop but they always seem to start fresh with a new bag.

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