Legislation in California has been signed into law banning the single-use plastic bags at stores and restaurants.
In summer 2015 plastic bags won’t be allowed to carry your food from the grocery store to your car to home. In 2016, plastic bags will be banned from pharmacies and convenience stores.
Paper bags may be provided by stores for a price of a dime a piece.
One of many articles can be found in the Daily Bulletin: California becomes first state to ban single-use plastic bag.
We will become the first natural experiment to see how many hospitalizations and deaths of humans this causes.
Will probably take until 2016 for a good year of data to accumulate and another year or two for epidemiologists (people who study diseases and their transmission) to analyze the data. Probably another year to find some place that is bold enough to publish unpopular results.
So in 2018 or 2021 we will start learning of the unintended consequences.
How can there be human suffering from reusable bags?
It may not make sense, but ongoing reuse of bags can endanger humans.
As I previously explained in my post, Harm to wildlife from plastic bags is a fraction of what we have been told:
Bags pick up bacteria from some of the food. Picture a leaky package of chicken parts or a steak. The bacteria can live in the bag for a while. On the next trip, the bacteria cross-contaminates other food you bring home, which increases the chance of getting sick.
One commentator somewhere said that storing bags that held meat in the back seat of your car where it can cook at over 100 degrees for hours at a time is a great recipe to get sick.
In August 2012, I discussed that reusable bags are a source of nasty bacteria that make people sick: 2 more unintended consequences.
How bad could it be?
So what’s the big deal?
The risks are really low. And how sick could someone get? A few little ol’ stomach bugs lasting a couple of hours for a few people isn’t that big of a deal, right?
In February 2013, I asked How many people die from reusable grocery bags?
The study I cited explained (in my words):
The answer is 5.5 per year in San Francisco County. The rate of hospitalization and fatalities increased in the county after a ban on plastic bags went into effect. The researchers isolated other factors and determined the link of deaths due to reusable bags was 5.5 per year.
If I understand how such things work, that fatality count would repeat each year. So the correct way to interpret that would be to say that 11 people are going to die every two years because of the plastic bag ban in ‘Frisco county.
So in a few years we will be surprised by the unexpected consequences on people of the state-wide plastic bag ban.