The recent decision by Moab City Council to ban the use of plastic bags in our city is unfounded and sets a threatening precedent for our freedom to choose how we live our lives.
While is it indeed quite fashionable to be the second community in Utah to impose such a ban, I wonder how much actual thought was really put into the decision. Once the emotional aspects wear off, we will find that the ban was more effective at warming our emotions rather than cooling our environment.
Firstly, most of us plastic-bag users find that the bags are rarely “one time use” items. For example, they are easily used as trash bags, lunch bags and for picking up after pets. It is important to recycle and oddly enough, now with the plastic bags gone, I realize that those bags were the most easily recycled item in the house.
Secondly, plastic bags are not actually such a huge culprit. It has been shown that paper bags create a larger carbon footprint throughout their life cycle and take the same amount of time as plastic bags to decompose in a landfill. Paper bags also take up more space.
With the new question being “paper or paper?” the paper bags are now being used at a higher rate. With the tourists on their way, we will surely break the record for paper bag usage this season. Will the ban actually make more space at a cleaner landfill and if so, does the Moab City Council know by how much?
Finally, was it appropriate for the Moab City Council to make such a decision on our behalf? They took an inch… next they might take a mile. Imposing a ban on something such as plastic bags interferes with our individual freedom to choose and tells incoming residents and businesses that the Moab City Council feels entitled to make our decisions for us.
With no dire threat impending on the community by plastic bags, this decision seems like more of an overreach by government than anything else. Rather than an outright ban of anything, why not use incentives to motivate change in the community? Most of what we do and use will eventually become obsolete and replaced by something better and cleaner anyway. I hope that next time we can promote positive changes by rewarding innovation in the free market rather than imposing restrictions on everyone.
Mark A. Solper II