SPRINGFIELD - Chicago is revisiting a ban on plastic shopping bags due to the continued pressure environmentalists are placing on the City Council. Those seeking the ban complain of plastic bags littering the streets, clogging drainage vents and filling up landfills with non-biodegradable items.
One State House member is warning that banning plastic shopping bags could create another public health issue no one is mentioning.
“Chicago's proposed ban on plastic shopping bags may help to solve one problem while creating unintended new ones—some life threatening. Bag bans are well intentioned but not well-thought out,” said State Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Arlington Heights).
Morrison, a sophomore lawmaker, said the blight and nuisance of blowing bags in the street, trees, public parks, and private yards is destructive, but the alternative isn't safe, ecologically friendly or cost effective.
“Reusable bags, particularly for the transport of food, have been proven to be hazardous to human health. They are a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, including e-coli," Morrison said. According to a University of Arizona and Loma Linda University study, bacteria levels in tested reusable bags were high enough to cause serious health problems and possibly death. The study also found that 97% of reusable bag users never washed their bags.”
Educating people about washing their cloth re-usable bags may be one recourse, but even that is not the best solution, Morrison said. Washing bags for safe re-use requires generous amounts of hot, clean water, which nullifies the environmental or cost benefits of using cloth bags instead of cheap plastic ones.
Besides, the materials used for cloth bags cannot be recycled. Eventually they will end up in landfills. Plastic bags, however, can be recycled with minimal extra effort or safely re-purposed.
“Instead of banning plastic bags outright, a better solution is to educate the public about proper recycling and disposal. Demonizing plastic bags is not the answer. We need to protect human health as well as our environment,” Morrison said.