by Ed Weisberg
Often, laws are written with all the best intentions, but over time, they lose their way as technology is improved. A classic example dates back to1967. At that time, Citroën, the French Automaker, introduced a potential important safety advancement to the US auto market. Based on their success in Europe, they perfected the design of headlights that steered with the wheels on the Citroën DS. The high-beam headlamp swiveled by up to 80° as the driver steered, pointing the beam along the driver’s intended path. The low-beam headlamps were self-leveling to react to pitching caused by acceleration and braking. However, US laws, which had been written to insure that headlights met certain minimum standards, precluded the import of this advancement, and thus the steerable headlights were banned. Even today these laws are still standing, and BMW and Audi, who have innovative adaptive lighting systems, are wrestling to reduce their effectiveness to fit into the US laws, while still providing safety benefits to their customers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety an analysis of the potential for Adaptive Headlights (as they are now called) to provide a safety benefit estimated that they are theoretically relevant to 90% of the crashes that occur on curves at night Lives could have been saved if these laws had been forward looking, rather than restrictive. However, lawmakers remained focused on overcoming shortfalls of poor lighting, rather than the opportunities of better lighting.
Why is this relevant? We see the same pattern of action in certain cities and states that are banning or taxing carry-out bags. In an effort to control plastic pollution, lawmakers in these communities have banned all single-use bags. They did not consider alternatives that could solve the pollution problem using technology which also counteracts the economic, environmental, and health impact which these bans and taxes have imposed. Certain other countries and cities also initially jumped to ban bags to stop pollution. However, as they became aware of better solutions to stop pollution, they embraced them, rather than sticking with restrictions. They quickly recognized that products such as ECOgrade Photodegradable bags, made with Calcium Olefinic Glucosate (COG) are a viable alternative to plastic, and can solve the pollution issue. India, Australia, UK, France, Mauritius, Somaliland, and others have reached out to GXT Green and are evaluating, or have accepted, COG as an alternative to plastic that solves the pollution issues.
Slowly, in the US, the momentum to make the bag laws more relevant is growing. In Iowa City, based on information that GXT Green provided in regard to COG, a proposed ban was not passed. In Huntington Beach CA, a bag ban was repealed in June of this year. The same thing happened in Dallas, where carry-bags were being taxed. California recently added a referendum to rescind the statewide ban to the 2016 ballot. There is a movement in Hawaii to bring some sense to their ban as well. In Santa Fe, people recognize that the net result of a ban, people using more paper bags or non-woven reusables, is worse for the environment than plastic, and are considering changes accordingly. An entire website is dedicated to the movement to “Bag the Ban” and documents these activities.
Reusable bags, which are deemed an alternative to single use carry-bags, are beginning to have an effect on health and healthcare costs. The Department of Public Health has issued warnings about the growth of bacteria in these bags, They can be washed, but washing bags would consume as much as 40 times more water than manufacturing of lightweight plastic bags, which is a major issue in drought-ridden California. Additionally, according to Lance Christiansen, writing in Reason, if California’s 12.4 million households spend five minutes each week cleaning their shopping bags to get rid of germs and bacteria, the annual opportunity cost would be more than $1.5 billion.
GXT Green does not take a stand on the banning of plastic bags. ECOgrade bags are manufactured with COG, and, as verified by third-party test labs and FTIR analysis, are not plastic. Plain and simple, ECOgrade COG bags are a solution to plastic pollution that addresses environmentalist needs with degradability, recyclability, and reduced GHG emissions, are priced competitively with plastic bags, do not pose a health-risk, and perform as well as plastic bags for carrying home groceries and other items. It’s time to clarify laws that ban carryout bags to specifically focus on plastic, without precluding better alternatives. More importantly, it’s time for US retailers to begin to transition from plastic to products such as Calcium Olefinic Glucosate, and solve the plastic pollution issue in a meaningful way.
Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.