After other local cities have banned plastic grocery bags, the City of Kirkland commissioned a public opinion survey to see what residents would think about bringing the policy to the community. Not much, apparently.
Two results stand out.
First, strong majorities opposed charging for plastic bags or banning them altogether. By more than a two-to-one margin, Kirkland residents oppose a plastic bag ban. Similar margins oppose charging for the bags.
The poll also asked if people would support requiring stores to include recycling bins or voluntarily reducing the use of plastic bags, although it is unclear what that means. Strong majorities supported those options.
The policy drawing the strongest opposition was when people were asked if they supported charging for any bags. A greater than three-to-one margin opposed that policy.
I also found it interesting that many people reported reusing their plastic bags. One of the common talking points against plastic bags (repeated by Thurston County staff in their own report I addressed last week) is that plastic bags have low recycle rates. They intentionally leave out, however, that plastic bags have very high rates of reuse.
In the Kirkland poll, fifty-two percent of residents reported reusing their plastic grocery bags. Those who answered the survey reported a combined reuse and recycle rate for plastic grocery bags of 85 percent. Assuming some margin for error, and some who don’t want to admit throwing them away, this is virtually identical to the reuse and recycling rate for paper bags.
This also indicates that a ban on plastic bags is unlikely to achieve the promised environmental benefits. Plastic grocery bags are reused for a variety of purposes, and without the bags, people would simply purchase or acquire plastic bags in some other way for those same purposes. Trust me, you can’t pick up after your dog with a paper bag.
My sense is that people believe plastic bag bans are good for the environment but are unwilling to deal with the cost and hassle. If they found out that plastic bag bans were actually bad for the environment, the poll numbers would be even worse. As it is, politicians looking to ban plastic bags will do so at their own risk.
[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured image: ]
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