WOLFVILLE, N.S. – Dr. David Duke says reusing plastic bags rather than banning them is a better solution to fight their negative environmental impact.
Duke is a professor in the Environment and Sustainability Studies program at Acadia University and doesn’t support banning plastic bags.
He says the real question the ban is addressing is not regarding carbon impact from plastic bags, but rather their pollution contributions.
Referencing a 2018 Danish study, Duke argues alternative bags people use to carrying grocery items home in lieu of single-use plastic bags “will have different and significant environmental impacts that may not be apparent in the debate.”
“If you want to really want to address the plastic pollution issue… there is only one sure-fire way to do it properly: education and the provision of convenient recycling,” he says.
Duke says this approach would ensure plastic is kept out of the environment and sorted “where it belongs” within the consumption and reuse cycle.
He also says the addition of new resources – alternative bag options like cotton tote bags – would no longer be required.
“The solution is to encourage the use of reusable and recyclable plastic bags. These can be used many times and when they begin to break they can be recycled,” he says.
Duke says plastic bags fall within the concept of convenient recycling since they last through 40 to 50 uses and are later recycled.
However, he adds, there must be government buy-in for this concept and further environment education to work.
“[The government looks like it's doing something for the environment, and on one level it is, but it's doing so only on that one level, and it may be making the problem worse elsewhere,” he says.
Duke says that's why he doens't favour a bag ban and would instead support taxing plastic bags – with money going towards improving recycling facilities and making reusable and fully-recyclable plastic totes cheaper and more accessible – as well as a sharp increase in penalties for improper plastic disposals.
“If we want to nudge people's behaviour into new directions using policy, this would be a better way to do it in my opinion,” he says.
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