What is the reason why the weight of discarded plastic bags has increased dramatically as a result of introducing the ``Law Prohibiting Single-Use Plastic Bags''?

In recent years, there has been a movement to reduce the use of plastic bags and straws in order to prevent environmental pollution caused by the manufacture and disposal of plastics. In the US state of California, in 2014 the state legislature

passed a law banning the use of single-use plastic bags in retail stores. However, a few years after this law was enacted, the weight of discarded plastic bags increased to an unprecedented level, and the local newspaper Los Angels Times summarized the reason why.

California's war on plastic bag use seems to have backfired - Los Angeles Times

A law passed in California in 2014 was aimed at encouraging a switch to reusable shopping bags by banning single-use plastic bags, which are difficult to recycle and generate large amounts of waste.

However, according to a report by consumer advocacy group CALPIRG, the weight of discarded plastic bags in California in 2014 was 157,385 tons, while the weight of discarded plastic bags in 2022 will be 230,000 tons. It is said that the amount increased by 47% to 1072 tons. Even taking into account the population growth during this period, the annual weight of plastic bags disposed of per 1,000 people has increased from 4.08 tons per 1,000 people in 2014 to 5.89 tons in 2022.

Despite the ban on single-use plastic bags, the weight of discarded plastic bags has increased because instead of eliminating traditional single-use plastic bags, grocery stores and supermarkets are replacing them with thicker, heavier plastic bags for 10 cents each. It has been pointed out that this is because they were allowed to sell it for about 15 yen.

According to Mark Murray, director of Californians Against Waste , an environmental protection group that was involved in the drafting of the law, several manufacturers in California at the time of the law's development were using reusable products, which were just beginning to appear on the market. He said that he was promoting 'plastic bags.' Manufacturers claimed that 20% of plastic bags are made of recyclable materials and can be recycled at the end of their useful life, so the law allows them to sell plastic bags that meet certain standards. 'This experiment has failed,' Murray said, citing the resulting increase in the weight of discarded plastic bags.

These reusable plastic bags are made from a material called

high-density polyethylene (HDPE) , which is thicker and heavier than traditional plastic bags made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) . Although both materials can be recycled, products made for homes and consumers are rarely recycled.

'Basically what happened is that a plastic bag manufacturer met the definition of 'technically reusable,' but clearly recyclable,' said Jen Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG. They circumvented the purpose of the law by inventing a thick plastic bag that does not look like a reusable bag.''

As of press time, California lawmakers are seeking to pass legislation that would close this loophole and ban thick plastic bags provided at checkouts. 'The idea is to redefine reusable bags and do away with the thick plastic bags that have become so common in grocery stores,' said Engstrom.

In addition to the law banning single-use plastic bags, California has enacted the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB54) in 2022. It aims to phase out single-use plastic products and puts the responsibility for waste on big manufacturers, rather than consumers or cities.

SB54 requires that by January 1, 2028, at least 30% of plastic products sold, distributed, and imported in California be recyclable, and that single-use plastic waste be reduced by 25% by 2032. .

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