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Unintended consequences: Does a plastic ban harm the environment?

Graham Watson

9th January 2020

One for the file marked Law of Unintended Consequences: this BBC article highlights that banning all forms of plastic packaging could see firms opting for higher carbon alternatives.

This smacks of the plastic bag ban in the Republic of Ireland which saw retailers get rid of plastic bags in favour of 'environmentally-friendly' paper bags. Unfortunately, at the time the legislation was introduced, there was no paper bag manufacturer in Ireland, so all the bags had to be imported, the majority from the UK.

Environmentally-friendly? I think not.

Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth has responded bay saying:

"Read this headline with care. ‘Environment’ here applies ONLY to carbon footprint. Even if plastic is lower carbon than glass & some other materials, plastic still kills millions of seabirds, turtles & marine mammals. Glass, paper & aluminium mostly don’t."

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to Tutor2U, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

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