Paper or Plastic?

Posted On: Saturday - October 20th 2018 12:07PM MST
In Topics: 
  Immigration Stupidity  Treehuggers  Environmental Stupidity

What a mess, right? When will Lady Bird Johnson weigh in on all this?

Yeah, that's pretty unsightly, so it's a good thing most AMERICANS in America don't litter much anymore. Wait a second, who the heck is Lady Bird Johnson? That's gotta be the reader's first question. In this 1 1/2 y/o Peak Stupidity post, Washington FS and First Ladies, we discussed an unwritten (least in the US Constitution) convention has been "trending" for 4 score years or so, that Presidential First Ladies* have their own programs of some sort. It SHOULD not be (doesn't mean they aren't) funded by any taxpayer's money, as these ladies were never elected. It's about using the bullyess pulpit, if I may, to jawbone the country into become better. If we knew how to say "that's not who we are" all those years, believe me we'd have heard that.

Per the post linked-to above, then, one can read that the wife of the scumbag Socialist Lyndon B. Johnson, had a program against littering. That beats Moochele Øb☭ma's "eat-your-vegetables" by a hair, I guess, and is definitely better than Nancy Reagan's "just-say-no" anti-drug thing. I'm not sure what the name of Mrs. Johnson's program was, but I'm guessing the "litterbug" term was a part of it. OK, so American did slowly ease up on the littering, from my recollection of many years later.

"We" are more concerned now with not killing the planet, as if that's really possible. No, don't try it, please, as Peak Stupidity just re-upped our URL, and you "can't take it with you". The latest treehugger concern is with our using the plastic grocery bags. When these people say "THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW!", unlike the old use of this phrase in jest, they mean it. They want to bring us back about 30-odd years to paper grocery bags only (or bring your own). Thing is, those paper bags can't be carried easily** and they fall apart in the rain. Yeah, they CAN be used as textbook covers. I am sure that they are quite a bit are more expensive for the grocery stores than the plastic ones. The storage and use of the plastic ones has been honed down to a science (not by scientists, though, by engineers).

It can't be about the space these things take up in the landfills. Peak Stupidity has been over this same thing with the current grasping of straws (see Part 2, and Part 3). These bags are EXTREMELY thin.

OK, I just HAD TO check it out. Thickness is in the range of 15 to 22 MICRONS. Let's do the math [But, but, I was led to believe there would be no math ... - Ed]. I'm gonna work in English (Standard) units, so sorry. I just measured one and got ~ 12 x 14 inches for the other dimensions, call it 175 in2, including smearing in the handle. Don't forget there are 2 sides, so, using the thickest stuff, that works out to right around 0.3 in3 of plastic. Now, I don't expect these to ever crush down to the size of the raw plastic. The more I think about this, I'd guess there's quite a bit involved in figuring this out, as eventually, even with a big compacter, small pockets of trapped air will just stay under pressure. Let's be conservative and say that there is a factor of 3, so each bag takes a solid 1 in cubed, once it gets to the landfill. If one goes back and forth a lot to the store, maybe you use 10 of these a week? Oooh, that's a cube of 2.15" per side. I believe we'll be OK on this, but I'll get back to this taking-up-of-space thing again a paragraph later.

I'm gonna guess the problem environmentalists have with the plastic grocery bag is what you see up top in the photo: LITTERING! Yeah, but, from the days of Lady Bird Freaking Johnson (at least) we've had LAWS against littering. Please don't give me the old THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW routine. I know that one, and there already are laws. How about enforce the laws once in a while?*** I've seen the littering problem worst in Mexican immigrant and Chinese immigrant areas. That's who they are, I guess. No, again, we don't want to talk about that, not only the worse problem from different cultures, but just the problem of bigger raw numbers making all environmental problems worse. We've covered the "don't want to talk about it" business long ago in More on the destruction of California, and the obvious exacerbation-by-numbers in Toward Sustainable Stupidity. The latter post also discusses landfills, BTW.

So there I was, 3 sheets to the wind dutifully keeping and storing all the bags from the grocery store for about 7 years. I'd put one bag inside another, then that inside another, and so on. Back to my volume/compaction calculations/speculation above, let's look at this actual observational data. After 7 years, with a very low compaction factor, those thousands of bags still fit under my sink! Like this, see:

Fine. Now the reason the end point was 7 years was because I was moving. I dutifully grabbed all these bags and brought them to the store from which I'd (mostly) got them from, as they'd advertised recycling of them. I learned "Oh, we don't do that anymore." Besides wasting my time, in the midst of moving, I'd been the treehugging recycler for 7 years for absolutely nothing. "OK, I don't have time for this shit ..", and I dutifully threw the load of them in the store dumpster.

BUT, I'M NOT A LITTERBUG! That's all it takes.

* Yes, I know, maybe we'll have a "First Man" soon. I would not be a good thing, and for the Presidential Candidate some have in mind, maybe his program would be cleaning up the reservations, as Peak Stupidity has begun to wonder, Are American Indians slobs? ... oh, and clamping down on scalping (of tickets, of course!).

** I'll give Trader Joe's and these places, or really the manufacturer's, kudos for making them with handles. Even with that, under any decent g-loading, they pull off. Do you remember carrying 3 of the paper ones in each arm, back in the day? They still don't allow for carrying a few bags at the handlebars of a bike, as plastic ones do.

*** It's really the same thing you run into regarding illegal immigration.

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