Friday, February 08, 2013

War on Plastic Bags: How Reusable Unwashed Grocery Bags Can Kill

Regulations must not be seen only by intentions, it has to be viewed from the perspective of incentives they create. 

The war on plastic bags is an example. The public, mesmerized by environmental political hysteria, don’t see people’s responses to such arbitrary proscriptions may end up with undesired consequences.

I discussed or posted about them earlier here and here.

Author, blogger and lecturer Timothy Taylor at the Conversable Economist blog points to a study which shows of the lethal side effects from unwashed reusable grocery bags
One recent local environmental cause, especially popular in California, has been to ban or tax plastic grocery bags. The expressed hope is that shoppers will instead carry reusable grocery bags back and forth to the grocery store, and that plastic bags will be less likely to end up in landfills, or blowing across hillsides, or floating in water. The problem is that almost no one ever washes their reusable grocery bags. Reusuable grocery bags often carry raw meat, unseparated from other foods, and are often stored for convenience in the trunk of cars that sit outside in the sun. In short, reusuable grocery bags can be a friendly breeding environment for E. coli bacteria, which can cause severe illness and even death.

Jonathan Klick and Joshua D. Wright tell this story in "Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness," published as a research paper by the Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. As their primary example, they look at E. coli infections in the San Francisco County after it adopted an ordinance severely limiting the use of plastic bags by grocery stores.
Read the rest here

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