Big Tent Ideas

KENDEL EHRLICH: Part Of The Resistance

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Kendel Ehrlich Contributor
Font Size:

Today’s progressive left often forgets to lean in on proof before policy, not the other way around. In other words, let the market dictate outcomes, rather than forcing untested policy on a resistant public.

A great example of this faux paw has occurred in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where I reside. A new county law prohibits retailers from providing plastic bags at checkouts (the City of Annapolis is not included). Of course, there are a slew of exceptions; but the real kicker is that retailers must charge at least 10 cents per approved bag offered. After only seven weeks of living under the “Bring Your Own Plastic Bag Reduction Act,” I have become part of the “resistance”.

My first experience as an opposition leader was to find out how many groceries one can carry with two arms. And I laughed out loud when I saw my husband turn the corner in our kitchen, arms overflowing with his usual items from the grocery store, and no bag in sight. Unbeknownst to me, he, too, had joined the resistance.

I just can’t get past the fact that the grocery stores I have frequented for decades are now required to charge me 10 cents for the same paper bag I used to get for free. The bag can’t cost the retailer anywhere near 10 cents and I resent the government mandate.  It’s not the money, it’s the point.

Of course, old habits die hard.  For example, I often forget my reusable bag, tucked away neatly in my car. During one recent trip, I simply broke down and paid the bag fee, albeit with a strong demand to the poor clerk not to “double bag” me!

Should I really occupy my mind with this minor inconvenience?  I ask myself: Is there any environmental benefit, or is this just another government feel good scam?

The “Packaging Dive” reports that a study released early this year reviewing multi-state plastic bag bans did show a reduction in single use plastic waste, but the demand for a stronger version plastic bag made of density polyethylene, or HDPE, has its own problems. This type of bag must go to a specialty recycling facility, not the recycle bin in your house.  Moreover, many users treat this bag as a single use bag thereby defeating its purpose of longevity.  The reality is that of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated by the U.S. annually, only 5-6 % (or 2 million tons) is recycled.

Similarly, the “Freedonia” study of the plastic bag ban in New Jersey suggested a negative environmental impact due to “the production footprint and lifecycle of alternative bags”.  Specifically, the New Jersey study found that under local mandates the total volume of single-use plastic bag use fell by 60%, but the energy used to produce woven reusable bags (HDPE) increased the carbon footprint sixfold. As a result, more plastic waste has been generated in all states that have banned single use plastic bags.

California, despite all the issues associated with plastic consumption and disposal, continues to enact laws with mandates on plastic manufacturers. In 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that mandates 30% of the plastic items sold, distributed, or imported into California must be recyclable by January 1, 2028. Other arbitrary demands are included in the bill as well as a $50,000.00 per day fine for failure to meet the standard. How does that work?  This should be as effective as the current Biden administration electric-car mandate foisted on American car manufacturers.

Laws based on emotion rather than science or market studies make one think state legislatures should meet less often.

In the meantime, I will be the one walking out of the store without the bag, suddenly worried about what the government wants to do with my gas stove.

Kendel Ehrlich is the former First Lady of Maryland, a former prosecutor, former Deputy Director of ONDCP, former Director of SMART and former acting Director of BJA.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact