Banning Plastic Bags: The Adverse Effects

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Environmental Consciousness and Legislation

Environmental consciousness has led to massive legislations currently as humanity tries to keep up with the changes and adverse effects of their existence to the environment. The legislation being taken up by many states involves the banning of plastic bags that are deemed to be massive environmental pollutants due to their non-biodegradable nature. Regulation of plastic bags reduces the harmful impact they pose to water bodies such as lakes and oceans and the wildlife in such habitats. It also reduces the pressure on waste management systems and landfills (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018). Though some states are focusing on encouraging recycling by providing incentive others are imposing fine and total bans to get rid of plastic bags altogether.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Plastic Bag Bans

However, it is not all glory in the ban of plastic bans as some studies reveal. Even though it seeks to save the environment, a cost-benefit analysis of the prohibition to the consumer and nature is either very minimal or in some cases harmful (Lau, 2018). It causes suffering to both businesses and consumers as it increases the cost of doing business which is passed on to the consumer.

Benefits of Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are popular because they make the environment friendlier by reducing the hazards associated with germs and infection. They make the environment cleaner and reduce the dangers to humans. Carrying items such as groceries in such bags prevents them from coming in contact with dirt thereby keeping them clean. The fact that the bags are disposable reduces the risk of transferring bacteria in the environment. In contrast, grocery bags that are reusable cause serious risk to public health (Lau, 2018). An analysis of such bags reveals a possible health risk since coliform bacteria were detected on about fifty percent of those sampled. This study has been backed up by another examination by the University of Pennsylvania that reveals an increase in deaths and ER visits due to the ban.

Adverse Effects of Plastic Bag Bans on Humans

Such studies suggest that even though the ban is meant to protect the environment from 'adverse effects' of plastics, the risk to humans has increased over the same with increased infections and deaths. The risk of disease from reusable bags is significantly higher since the bacteria from groceries tend to be transferred multiple times due to reuse of the containers.

Counter-Productivity of Paper Bags

There is also evidence to suggest that the use of paper bags is counter-productive to the fight against climate change. The thickness of these bags means they produce more carbon emissions when decomposing. The long-term result, in this case, suggests an adverse effect of the ban on the climate. The citation by Frank Stephenson, an economist, that plastic bags consume less energy and generate fewer emissions, and solid wastes emphasize this observation (Lau, 2018). They also release over 90% fewer waterborne wastes as compared to grocery bags.

The Need for Proper Analysis and Management

With evidence to suggest the need to use cloth bags at least 130 times to match the carbon equivalent of disposables, it is clear that plastic bags lead to less pollution. The bags only account for about0.28% of the weighted municipal solid waste. With all these factors in consideration, it is clear to assume that the ban on plastic bags is a superficial fix to an underlying problem that has minimal or even negative implications. The increased risk of exposure to germs and environmental hazards has been shown to grow with the ban leading to increased infection and deaths. There is minimal evidence to suggest any massive positive impacts on the environment courtesy of such prohibitions. Without proper analysis, it could lead to further deterioration due to increased carbon emissions, the risk of waterborne diseases, and solid waste (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018). More scrutiny is needed in the management of plastic bags with more policies and incentives to encourage recycling rather than bans that precipitate massive adverse effects on both the environment and the human population.


Lau, M. (2018). Plastic bag bans are actually terrible for the environment and make us sicker. Financial Post. Retrieved from

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2018). State Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation. Denver.

December 12, 2023
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Plastic Bags

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