L.A. Should Sack Paper Bag BanOP-ED Monday, April 23, 2012
The Los Angeles City Council’s proposed ban on paper bags not only overlooks key facts about paper bag production and use – it underestimates the ban’s impact on L.A.-area jobs. At International Paper’s Kraft Paper Bag Plant in Buena Park, hard-working unionized employees take great pride in manufacturing paper bags from 40 percent postconsumer recycled content. A complete ban on paper bags will affect demand and directly impact Los Angeles jobs at a time when California’s unemployment rate hovers near a staggering 12 percent.
Moreover, the Bureau of Sanitation and Chief Administration Office claim the decision is being made on purely environmental reasons, saying paper bags consume more trees, energy and water than plastic. Let’s take a closer look at that inaccurate statement.
Paper bag production actually results in 59 percent less greenhouse gas emission as compared with the production of plastic bags – and 33 percent less fossil fuel use, if lawmakers use the often misquoted Boustead Study.
And contrary to the April 5 statement of Andrea Alarcon, president of the Board of Public Works who said paper bag use causes deforestation, more than 500 million acres of forestland exist in the United States today because of demand for paper goods – that’s roughly 70 percent of all U.S. forestland. Private landowners, as contracted by the forest products industry, plant close to 4 million trees per day. The demand for paper – and the constant cycle of planting, harvesting and replanting – ensures that forestland is spared from other commercial uses including conversion to parking lots or shopping malls. Perhaps Alarcon should heed the words of Harvard University economics professor Edward Glaeser, who said, “When people use more paper, suppliers plant more trees. If we want bigger commercial forests, then we should use more paper, not less.”
Additionally, removing paper bags from the consumer cycle will lead to reduced recycling rates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 50 percent of paper bags are recycled nationwide. Up north in Alameda County, that number stands at a whopping 80 percent. With the ban on paper bags, the Los Angeles City Council will put a chokehold on the recycling stream and deter consumers from playing an important role in the circle of sustainability.
There’s no question – with the use of trees comes great responsibility. The forest products industry has taken strides to create smart, responsible supply chains and partner with third party certification organizations such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. These organizations promote responsible forest management and protect forests from the dangers of illegal logging. The majority of today’s paper bag plants are SFI or FSC certified, and that certification standard plays a key role in the manufacturing process every step of the way.
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