As the debate over plastic bags rages on, consumers and common sense managed to pull out a victory in a recent settlement between Hilex Poly, a plastic bag manufacturer, and ChicoBag, an importer of reusable bags. Hilex Poly originally filed a civil suit in response to ChicoBag’s knowing and blatant use of misinformation about ChicoBag’s own product and about the use of plastic bags. ChicoBag’s twisting of numbers and misrepresentation of facts would make former Enron accountants blush. Inaccurate information promoted by ChicoBag included a faux EPA website, fabricated NOAA data, and outdated statistics.
One particularly glaring piece of misinformation that was being spread by ChicoBag stated that “a reusable bag needs only to be used eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags.” This was, in fact, debunked by the UK Environmental Agency, which found that it would take 7.5 years of using the same reusable bag to make it a better choice than a plastic bag reused three times.
Furthermore, ChicoBag failed to mention the negative health effects that reusable bags can have on carriers. Tests on reusable bags were conducted by a Miami news station, finding a reusable bag that carried meat was “covered in bacteria.” A bag that was used to transport produce contained “80 organisms of coliform,” a bacteria that is found in the feces of warm-blooded animals. I’m sure that we can all agree that this is not something we want near the groceries that we’re feeding our families and loved ones.
The settlement that was reached forces ChicoBag to end its use and distribution of inaccurate information—often cited by lobbyists who push local and state legislation that moves to ban and/or tax the use of plastic and paper bags. In order to move forward with a fair and accurate debate over plastic bag use, it is important that the information used to fuel this debate is based on facts and science, not outward propaganda.
Through this settlement, consumers emerge as the real victors. The “science” that has been used to back up the draconian measures that seek to limit consumer choice and manufacture a public health risk has been exposed as fraudulent, creating the opportunity for a more truthful discussion on plastic bag use. If another statewide bag prohibition or tax is introduced again, as we saw in Oregon this year and California last year, it won’t be so easy for nanny statists to mislead the public about the non-problem they wish to address with the heavy hand of the government.