Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bob Dunning: Plastic bag problem? I don’t see it


From page A2 | January 30, 2013 |

In a town that bills itself as the first pro-choice city in America, I’m still trying to get my arms around the movement to deny grocery shoppers the simple choice between carrying their food and other goods home in plastic bags, paper bags, cloth bags or their bare hands.

If you don’t like plastic bags, don’t use them. If you don’t like paper bags, don’t use them. And if you don’t like cloth bags, don’t use them. Request your bag of choice at the store or take your bag of choice to the store. Problem solved.

In discussing this issue with those who wish to ban all choices but their own, I’ve been told that plastic bags blowing in the wind are a huge problem in Davis. The only way they can become a problem, of course, is if someone sets a plastic bag free where it can catch the wind. So it’s really a human problem more than a bag problem.

No one seems to claim that we have great numbers of large brown paper grocery bags flying around town, but folks want to ban them as well, for reasons that have yet to become clear.

Maybe these people all own stock in companies that make reusable cloth bags where salmonella can mingle with your salmon or E. coli can cozy up to your broc. coli.

But hey, I’m big on choice. If a cloth bag causes you no concern, go for it. Just don’t make me use one of those gooey, gummy germ incubators that needs to be washed twice a day just to be safe.

The next thing you know, they’ll ban driving your car to the grocery store and make you carry everything home in your bicycle basket.

If you complain that you really need to take the car because you’re buying for 12 kids, they’ll tell you that’s a lifestyle choice you should have considered before you had those 12 kids.

The urge to control everyone else’s behavior is a strong one in the City of All Things Right and Relevant. Ban plastic bags. Ban cigarettes. Ban cozy fires on Christmas Eve. Ban the Easter Bunny. Ban Republicans.

Just for the record, I don’t use plastic bags. That’s my choice. Whatever your choice is, that’s fine with me.

Still, trying to be fair about all this, and in a determined effort to appreciate the position of those who wish to ban plastic bags, I went on an extensive walking tour of Davis streets to assess for myself just how serious this bag-blowing-in-the-wind problem truly is.

I did this over a period of two weeks in the late fall, before those pesky, bicycle-riding UC Davis students left town for winter break. I walked three or four miles a day, probably 50 or 60 miles in all.

I walked along East Eighth, West Covell, A Street, B Street, Anderson Road and Oeste (rhymes with “toasty”) Drive. I traversed the Bird Streets, the Private University Streets, the Citrus Streets, the Fruit Streets, the Nut Streets, the Water Streets, the National Park Streets, the Tree Streets, the Telescope Street, the Catholic Saint Streets, the Misspelled Iowa College Street, the Unpronounceable French Artist Streets and the Streets Named after Developers’ Daughters. Hey, I even walked down Clara Lane.

I may have missed a few, but not many.

And while I plan to publish the results of my research in one of those peer-reviewed academic journals just as soon as I can find a peer who also walked 50 or 60 miles, I’ll give you a sample of what I found.

In all those miles on all those days, I found only one unattended plastic bag on the streets of Davis. It was sitting in a gutter on the north side of town but wasn’t going anywhere because it was pinned to the ground by what appeared to be a tuna fish sandwich.

I’m assuming some first-grader was examining his lunch on the way to school and was upset that mom or dad had not packed him peanut-butter-and-jelly instead. I realize there’s some age and gender stereotyping going on here, but anyone who has a first-grader will agree I’m probably right in my assumptions.

I did find four Snickers wrappers, two empty bags of nacho-flavored Doritos, an apple core, three banana peels, one whole banana, assorted chicken bones, an ice cream cup and crushed red plastic spoon from Dairy Queen, half a pomegranate and one copy of The Davis Enterprise opened to Page 2, with a large dusty boot print directly across the handsome forehead of the Above-Pictured Columnist.

I’m thinking it may be about time to ban boots.

— Reach Bob Dunning at





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