Killer Plastic Bags

The Corner linked to this story about the environmental effect of discarded plastic bags. It seems the danger has been greatly exaggerated. I'm shocked.
Scientists and environmentalists have attacked a global campaign to ban plastic bags which they say is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims. The widely stated accusation that the bags kill 100,000 animals and a million seabirds every year are false, experts have told The Times. They pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds. Gordon Brown announced last month that he would force supermarkets to charge for the bags, saying that they were “one of the most visible symbols of environmental waste”. Retailers and some pressure groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, threw their support behind him...The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.
Of course, it was always obvious that this claim was preposterous. I think the fact that this story was accepted as truth says something about environmental scientists. Either they are incompetent or the are driven by politics more than science. I'm not sure which is worse.

Years before it was plastic bags, the threat was supposedly from those 6-ring plastic connectors that used to be used to hold 6-packs of beer and soda cans together. You remember them? Supposedly all sorts of animals got their heads caught in them. Again, the claim was absurd, but that didn't stop it from being generally accepted. There was even an amusing parody of this claim on the Simpsons, where Mr. Burns uses a net made of these 6-pack rings to "sweep the oceans clean... so that not a single creature is wasted!" Not wasting things is the essence of environmentalism, you see.

Even more preposterous, but again accepted as truth, was the "killer yogurt container" controversy. It seems somebody decided that those semi-conical containers of Yoplait yogurt were just the right size for skunks to get their heads stuck in. No, I'm not kidding. The story was that skunks would be attracted to the remaining yogurt at the bottom of the container, stick their heads in, get stuck, and starve to death. I shudder thinking how many skunks were killed this way. Indeed, according to my calculations, approximately 640,000 skunks died in the 90's alone as a result of French corporate greed. Thank heavens they finally changed the package design before their skunk genocide program was complete.