Democrats see their plastic bag–free world crumble before coronavirus

When I grew up, and for most of my life after that, at a grocery store, the clerk would ring up my groceries and put them in a useful paper or plastic bag emblazoned with the store's motto.  I'd take the bag home and use it again.  If it was paper, I used it for book covers, storing annual tax-relevant documents, wrapping packages destined for UPS, and holding recycling.  If it was plastic, I used it for bathroom garbage bags, packing school lunches, padding breakables for shipping, etc. 

All that changed when California decided to "ban the bag."  The reason given was that paper and plastic bags destroyed the environment.  Paper bags were guilty because they killed trees.  Plastic bags were guilty because they polluted waterways.

It didn't matter that the trees came from carefully replenished trees, rather than from virgin forests.  Nor did it matter that the bags polluting waterways didn't come from America; they came from Asia and Africa.  Facts didn't matter.  Gaia was hurting, and we had to suffer.

One of the most irritating things about the ban was that, while stores could still provide bags, consumers had to pay a dime per bag if they wanted them.  In other words, consumers were suddenly being taxed for a harmless product they once received for free.  At the same time, the bags we were now forced to pay for also became more fragile and, therefore, were harder to put to secondary uses.  They usually ripped by the time they entered the house.

The real problem, though, was that the reusable bags that replaced plastic and paper were disease vectors — something that all the politicians banning them knew or should have known.  San Francisco (of course) was the American city that led the way on plastic bag bans in 2007.  Not long afterward, a study revealed that the bans increased by 50% the number of deaths from food-borne illnesses:

Researchers in America found that a ban on plastic bags in San Francisco in 2007 may have increased deaths from food poisoning by over 50 per cent in a year.

Economists at the University of Pennsylvania investigated deaths and emergency admissions to hospital from "intestinal infectious diseases" in the wake of a ban on bags. It concluded that, as a result of the ban, San Francisco saw between 5.4 and 15.8 additional fatalities in a year from illnesses caused by  food bugs.

"We find that both deaths and emergency room visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect, Professors Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright concluded. "Relative to other counties, deaths in San Francisco increased by 50 to 100 per cent, and ER visits increased by a comparable amount."

They added: "Subsequent bans by other cities in California appear to be associated with similar effects. This suggests that the plastic bag ban generated serious public health problems."

The obvious answer to the salmonella and E. coli problem would be to wash the bags with bleach after every use.  However, doing so would raise to such a high level the inconvenience from schlepping reusable bags that few people would make the effort.  Moreover, in chronically drought-ridden California, there was minimal incentive to run more laundry loads.

With the coronavirus, though, the risks associated with reusable shopping bags have escalated to a whole new level, causing stores to ban their use:

Safeway and Albertsons [two California grocery chains] say if you bring your own bag, employees will not be able to touch them or fill them, so you'll have to do your own bagging. Some stores, like the Safeway at 6310 College Ave. in Oakland, have a large sign informing customers of the policy change. At others, you might not learn about it until the cashier rings you up.

The policy is not unique to supermarkets. Trader Joe's, Total Wine and More, Target and dollar stores are reportedly following similar procedures.

Some stores also are reserving the right to decline customers' reusable bags and give them paper or plastic bags at no charge.


Now stores are worried that reusable bags might endanger both employees and customers because they could potentially transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  

The coronavirus is causing leftist shibboleths to collapse as easily as those ten-cent paper bags.  Densely populated cities, public transportation, reusable bags — all of them are proving to be harbingers of disease and death.

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