1. RACISM IN THE WATER
  2. THE “INFLATION REDUCTION ACT” IS NOW LAW. SO, HOW DOES IT HELP BLACK PHILLY?
  3. PHILADELPHIA HAS AN AIR TOXIN PROBLEM. WHAT IS THE CITY GOVERNMENT GOING TO DO TO FIX IT?
  4. Want to end gun violence now? Let’s save Philly block by block
  5. Here are steps Philly could take to cool urban heat islands
  6. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  7. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  8. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  9. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  10. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  11. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  12. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  13. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  14. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  15. Ian Harris
  16. Melissa Ostroff
  17. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  18. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  19. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  20. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  21. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  22. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  23. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  24. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  25. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  26. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  27. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  28. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  29. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  30. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  31. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  32. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  33. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  34. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  35. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  36. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  37. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  38. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  39. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  40. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  41. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  42. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  43. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  44. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  45. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  46. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  47. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  48. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  49. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  50. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  51. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  52. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  53. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  54. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  55. THE NATURE GAP
  56. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  57. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  58. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  59. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  60. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  61. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  62. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  63. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  64. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  65. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  66. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  67. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  68. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  69. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  70. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  71. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  72. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  73. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  74. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  75. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  76. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  77. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  78. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  79. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  80. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  81. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  82. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  83. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  84. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  85. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  86. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  87. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  88. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  89. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  90. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  91. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  92. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  93. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  94. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  95. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  96. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  97. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  98. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  99. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  100. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  101. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  102. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  103. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  104. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  105. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  106. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  107. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  108. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  109. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  110. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  111. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  112. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  113. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  114. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  115. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  116. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  117. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  118. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  119. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  120. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  121. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  122. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  123. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  124. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  125. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  126. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  127. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  128. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  129. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  130. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  131. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  132. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  133. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  134. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  135. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  136. Are You Going to Drink That?
  137. The Origins of ecoWURD
  138. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  139. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  140. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  141. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Monday, October 3, 2022
  1. RACISM IN THE WATER
  2. THE “INFLATION REDUCTION ACT” IS NOW LAW. SO, HOW DOES IT HELP BLACK PHILLY?
  3. PHILADELPHIA HAS AN AIR TOXIN PROBLEM. WHAT IS THE CITY GOVERNMENT GOING TO DO TO FIX IT?
  4. Want to end gun violence now? Let’s save Philly block by block
  5. Here are steps Philly could take to cool urban heat islands
  6. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  7. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  8. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  9. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  10. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  11. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  12. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  13. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  14. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  15. Ian Harris
  16. Melissa Ostroff
  17. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  18. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  19. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  20. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  21. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  22. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  23. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  24. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  25. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  26. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  27. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  28. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  29. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  30. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  31. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  32. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  33. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  34. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  35. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  36. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  37. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  38. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  39. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  40. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  41. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  42. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  43. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  44. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  45. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  46. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  47. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  48. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  49. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  50. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  51. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  52. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  53. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  54. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  55. THE NATURE GAP
  56. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  57. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  58. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  59. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  60. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  61. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  62. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  63. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  64. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  65. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  66. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  67. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  68. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  69. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  70. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  71. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  72. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  73. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  74. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  75. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  76. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  77. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  78. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  79. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  80. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  81. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  82. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  83. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  84. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  85. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  86. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  87. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  88. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  89. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  90. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  91. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  92. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  93. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  94. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  95. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  96. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  97. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  98. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  99. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  100. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  101. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  102. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  103. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  104. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  105. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  106. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  107. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  108. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  109. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  110. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  111. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  112. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  113. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  114. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  115. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  116. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  117. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  118. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  119. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  120. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  121. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  122. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  123. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  124. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  125. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  126. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  127. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  128. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  129. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  130. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  131. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  132. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  133. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  134. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  135. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  136. Are You Going to Drink That?
  137. The Origins of ecoWURD
  138. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  139. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  140. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  141. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

By Rebecca Taylor | Research | TheConversation

[Editor’s Note: In recent months, local and state legislators in the Philadelphia area are proposing bans on the use of plastic bags. The push is part of an overall effort to eliminate a serious level of plastic pollution in streets, roads and waterways. Philadelphia Councilman Mark Squilla recently revived plastic ban legislation; lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are considering the same.  But, we wanted to know: what does the research say?]

Governments are increasingly banning the use of plastic products, such as carryout bags, straws, utensils and microbeads. The goal is to reduce the amount of plastic going into landfills and waterways. And the logic is that banning something should make it less abundant.

However, this logic falls short if people actually reuse those items instead of buying new ones. For example, so-called “single-use” plastic carryout bags can have a multitude of unseen second lives – as trash bin liners, dog poop bags and storage receptacles.

A U.K. government study calculated that a shopper would need to reuse a cotton carryout bag 131 times to reduce its global warming potential – its expected total contribution to climate change – below that of plastic carryout bags used once to carry newly purchased goods. To have less impact on the climate than plastic carryout bags also reused as trash bags, consumers would need to use the cotton bag 327 times.

My research has evaluated carryout bag regulations from many angles. In a recent study, I examined how plastic carryout bag bans in California have changed the types of bags people use at checkout, as well as these bans’ unintended impacts on consumer purchasing habits. My results showed that bag bans may not reduce total plastic usage if people begin purchasing trash bags to replace the carryout bags they were previously reusing for their garbage. As this finding shows, well-intended product bans can have unintended consequences.

PLASTIC BAG USE IN CALIFORNIA

California provides a unique laboratory for studying plastic bag regulations. From 2007 through 2015, 139 California cities and counties implemented plastic carryout bag bans. This local momentum led to the first statewide plastic bag ban in the United States, voted into law on Nov. 8, 2016. Because these restrictions were adopted at different times across the state, I was able to compare bag usage at stores with bans to those without, while also accounting for potentially confounding factors, such as seasonal shopping patterns.

Using sales data from retail outlets, I found that bag bans in California reduced plastic carryout bag usage by 40 million pounds per year, but that this reduction was offset by a 12 million pound annual increase in trash bag sales. This meant that 30 percent of the plastic eliminated by the ban was coming back in the form of trash bags, which are thicker than typical plastic carryout bags.

In particular, my results showed that bag bans caused sales of small (4 gallon), medium (8 gallon) and large (13 gallon) trash bags to increase by 120 percent, 64 percent and 6 percent respectively.

Percentage change in sales of garbage bags (red) and 114 other grocery product groups (gray) in the months before and after plastic carryout bag bans. Taylor, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2019.01.001, CC BY-ND

DISPOSABLE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN SINGLE-USE

Although plastic carryout bags are widely referred to as “single-use,” consumers don’t necessarily treat them that way. By comparing the reduction in plastic carryout bags used at checkout to the increase in trash bags sold, my results revealed that 12 to 22 percent of plastic carryout bags were reused in California as trash bags pre-ban. Each reuse avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag.

Moreover, my study underestimated reuse because it did not examine other ways in which people use plastic carryout bags, such as wrapping fragile items for shipping or storage instead of using plastic bubble wrap. Nor did it address increased use of reusable bags made of thicker plastic in place of disposable plastic bags.

The U.K. study did examine the impact of shifting to thicker reusable plastic bags. It found that if these thicker bags were not reused between 9 and 26 times, they would have a higher global warming potential than disposable plastic carryout bags reused as trash bags.

WHO BEARS THE BURDEN?

Who were the people who reused plastic carryout bags pre-ban, and presumably bore the burden of buying trash bags post-ban? I found that bag reuse was higher for people who purchased pet items and baby items – in other words, who needed to collect and dispose of excrement. In 2017, nearly 6 percent of U.S. households had a child under 5 years old, 44 percent owned a dog, and 35 percent owned a cat.

I also found that plastic bag reuse was higher among people who shopped for bargains. Although reusing shopping bags as trash bags could be motivated by environmental concern, it also could be motivated by frugality. Interestingly, I did not find a correlation between plastic bag reuse and income or political leaning, but I did find a positive correlation with higher levels of education.

THE CASE FOR FEES INSTEAD OF BANS

Why didn’t policymakers foresee that bag bans could drive up trash bag sales? Policies typically miss the mark because policymakers either do not understand people’s current behavior or fail to anticipate how people will respond in a completely new situation.

Banning carryout bags illustrates the first problem. Before plastic bags were banned, there was little data on who reused plastic bags or how they reused them. California’s natural experiment revealed this information for other jurisdictions to improve upon.

In my view, policymakers who want to minimize plastic use should consider ways to help people who want to reuse disposable bags. One option would be to offer incentives for producing inexpensive, thin carryout bags specifically designed and marketed to be used first as carryout bags, then for trash. Such bags would need to sell for less than 9 cents per bag to be price-competitive with current 4-gallon trash bags. Ideally, they would be thin enough to contribute no more to climate change than traditional carryout bags.

Another route that some jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., have implemented is adopting plastic bag fees instead of bans. This approach, which allows customers to continue using plastic carryout bags as trash bags for a small fee, has been shown to be as effective as bans in encouraging consumers to switch to reusable bags.

However, current bag fees have not promoted other uses for disposable carryout bags. These policies could be improved by educating customers about the environmental benefits of reusing disposable products. As a general rule, the more an object can be reused – even a disposable item – the better for the environment.

Tags: