A moral crusade is announced: PLASTIC BAGS ARE EVIL!
Reasons are given: THEY BECOME LITTER IN OUR BEAUTIFUL PARKS!
[Also: PLASTIC BAGS ARE MADE OF PETROLEUM! PETROLEUM IS EVIL!]
Pictures accompany the crusade: a lonely trash bag in a park or a seabird covered with oil (stock photos, sometimes years old).
Legislation is ground out like sausage: PLASTIC BAGS ARE BANNED!
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways.The politicians congratulation themselves for being in the forefront of a great movement:
"This bill is a step in the right direction. It reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," [California Governor Jerry] Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."The smug, it stinks.
Once the crusade is announced, no contrary facts can be countenanced:
Article: ACC Reacts To Brownsville Bag Ban
Article: EFFECT OF PLASTIC BAG TAXES AND BANS ON GARBAGE BAG SALES
Article: Bag the Plastic Ban
Research shows banning plastic grocery bags reduces the use of the bags. AND it also increases the purchase of other types of plastic bags to compensate.
Why? Because people naturally reuse the bags (or recycle them). If they need the bags as trash can liners or to pick up the natural products of owning a pet, they will buy them if they cannot get them free from the store.
But the smug self-congratulation of the crusaders (many of whom are too wealthy to worry about trash-can liners) cannot be pierced by facts.
I am old enough to remember Lady Bird Johnson's "Beautify America" campaign. It was, in part, a campaign against littering. As a result of her work, people's behavior changed and litter has been much reduced as a problem.
But the campaign worked on people, like myself, who are now older.
We could not run a campaign like that today. In addition to educating people about how ugly litter was, it also involved openly shaming people into compliance [update with link]. Litter became a legal crime, and it also became a shameful thing to do.
Shaming is now a shameful thing to do and people are routinely shamed for doing it.
So what do we do instead? We ban bags, rather than try to change behavior. It is a lazy and cowardly way out.