No one can deny the convenience and efficacy of plastic bags at the supermarket. These small white bags get handed out by the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions across the nation every day. It may seem harmless when you check out at the grocery counter and slip your purchases in these bags; you save them and reuse them for later! But the fact is the bags that don’t end up in the ubiquitous pile of plastic bags in the pantry end up in a monumental pile in landfills or all over kingdom come.


The issue with plastic bags goes beyond just aesthetic annoyance. No one likes seeing these eyesores littered on the beach or caught in trees in your local parks. These are the obtrusive, persistent mark of the human’s impact in nature; “we are here, and this is the way that we live.” What we may not always realize is that these ugly plastic bags are very harmful to the environment. They float past the areas of our inhabitants, over the supermarket parking lots and freeways, and land in places that were never meant to be muddled by the spoils of human life.


As a collective people, we have more plastic bags than we know what do with. Every year, an estimated 500 billion to as many as one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. With this kind of mass usage, it is no mystery why the bags are finding their way into rivers, oceans, parks, and other wildlife habitats where they do not belong. We’ve all seen the photos of the sea turtles entangled in plastic garbage or other wildlife trapped in our waste, and noted the disharmony in the situation.


That’s why California is taking action with their drastic but warranted ban on all plastic bags. The question that has arisen of late regarding this decision, under implementation by democratic governor Jerry Brown and proposed by state senator Alex Padilla, is whether or not the legislation will have unforeseen consequences beyond the singular issue of positive environmental aspects. For instance, how will the local economy be affected after these bags are eliminated from our use? Although it is not something we think about when we use these millions upon millions of bags, the fact is that they are coming from somewhere; local and national manufacturers that create thousands of jobs for working Americans every year.


The elimination of these wasteful bags could, in reality, cause minimal layoffs and a temporary stunted growth for these companies, but the long term effects for this recent act will outweigh any negative unintended consequences. Additionally, the bill will include sufficient means for the companies to retool their business model and quite literally “buy time” for them to reconfigure a more environmentally-friendly reusable grocery bag instead of the wasteful and unsightly plastic bags that are in circulation by the million now. This act will certainly put a dent in the raising number of these toxic plastic bags that take years and years to degrade, cause accidents on highways, and flutter into trees and into oceans. With further cooperation of other states implementing similar initiatives, it will overall create a more positive effect on the world around us.


What do you think the consequences will be of this legislation? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @JenksUOhMeASoda