Predictably, Andrew Bolt is foaming at the mouth again. This time, it is about the demise of the single-use plastic bag from supermarkets. He hilariously started off his rant with: “It’s bad enough that Woolworths wants to stuff its customers around with its pointless new ban on plastic bags. But must they die for the planet as well?”1 He then drags out a University of Pennsylvania study, oddly published by the Law School’s Institute of Law and Economics2,3. Bolt states that the study found that there was a spike in food poisoning illness and death in San Francisco immediately after the ban was introduced1, and that seems to be the case. However, the statistics are limited, and the causal relationship to reusable bag use cannot be clearly demonstrated, and the authors state that any inference is tentative. Those authors are lawyers and the main thrust of the article is a cost/benefit analysis of this bag ban. As such, it tries to quantify, in dollar terms, the deaths of wildlife caused by single-use plastic bags. Furthermore, it stated that reusable bags can harbour harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli.3 While most strains of E. coli are harmless, as they form part of the normal microbiota in the lower intestine of most mammals, including humans, some strains can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts4.
When the Australian Capital Territory introduced its single-use plastic bag ban, it was careful not to also ban the barrier bags, often found on rolls near the fresh vegetables5. Plastic barrier bags are also still used for meat products, and cool-bags are used by us to transport meat and dairy products from the supermarket to home. When the cool-bag interior gets wet either from leakage of meat juices or condensation around the cold items, a quick wipe to remove the leaked substance and allowing the bag to dry out completely (in the car or in the sun) seems to do the trick. We have had the same bags for almost a decade and they are used at least once a week.
This episode clearly illustrates two things about Andrew Bolt; whenever something is done for the environment it is “so typical of green policies” and it is all meant to “bugger the humans”1. The environment seemingly means nothing to him and that, if any greenies are behind a policy, it cannot be good and must be opposed. This is presumably why he thinks climate change is a conspiracy of greenies. It also demonstrates his lack of understanding of science and statistics.
A post-script even funnier than Bolt’s blather was posted on Twitter: “Bolt is right to raise this – almost the entire population of South Australia has been wiped out by pathogens that live on reusable bags since we banned single-use plastic in 2009. We few that remain forage for scraps in the ruins of our supermarkets.”6 You have to laugh at both Bolt, and TheWrongNoel.
- Klick, J. & Wright, J.D., 2013. Grocery bag bans and foodborne illness. University of Pennsylvania, Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper 13-2, 24p.