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As Allegheny County considers a plastic bag ban, we wanted to dig deeper into a recent study. Researchers looked at the impact of New Jersey’s statewide ban, which started in 2022. They concluded that, while people used fewer bags, plastic consumption tripled.

In February, national headlines read New Jersey’s plastic bag ban “backfires” and “proves unsuccessful” and “plastic consumption triples.” That’s what business research company, The Freedonia Group, concluded after studying the first two years of the ban.

I sat down with Philip Rozenski, interim director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance. The Alliance paid for the study.

“What these bans do is, they started as an anti-plastics measure,” said Rozenski. “And what they really do is, they don’t reduce plastic, they just substitute it with a new plastic.”

Rozenski says that new plastic is reusable bags. The researchers stated that the bags are largely made of non-woven polypropylene plastic, which is widely not recycled in the U.S. And now, with more of these bags in production, researchers said greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed 500%, compared to 2015.

“Especially with the development of home delivery and store pickup, these bags have basically become single-use,” said Rozenski. “The study found that bags are actually used an average of two to three times.”

But experts say two to three times isn’t enough. A United Nations report says a reusable bag needs to be used anywhere from 10 to 20 times in order to benefit the environment.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy criticized the Freedonia study, pointing out that it was paid for by the Plastic Bag Alliance, which supports manufacturers of plastic bags. I asked Rozenski about that.

“We hired an independent group to conduct this study,” said Rozenski. “The data is all from public sources. Anybody else could look at it, come up with the same conclusion. And we’ve seen this everywhere. There were articles long before this study in the New York Times claiming this is what was going on.”

Rozenski says the solution is to focus more on developing packaging that can be recycled.

As for Allegheny County’s proposed ban, I spoke to a sponsor of the bill, but did not hear back when I requested an interview.