One of the main arguments I put forward against bans is that they don’t solve a problem (the recyclers don’t care about this – they just lash out at the latest “defect”). Solving a problem requires an understanding of the function that needs to be served and then designing a way to satisfy that legitimate function.
Marian Nestle in her book Food Politics (2012) gives an apposite example from food regulation. She admits to being a bit naive when she earlier agreed to a strong recommendation by the US Dept. of Agriculture, a kind of ban in its effect on diet, that fat be removed from foods. The recommendation was released to the American public in this negative form. Just reduce fat, as though fat had no function in the diet. The effect on the American diet was explosive. Suddenly citizens and manufacturers both were looking for ways to implement this negative admonition.
What happened was that the manufacturers searched for new ways to fulfill the essential function of fat, which is to provide texture to food and to convey taste. They invented some artificial fat substances based on carbohydrates that felt a little like eating fat, but those never caught on. The main thing they did was to replace fat with sugar. Then they developed high fructose corn syrup as a huge new source of sugar and the campaign was on. Soda consumption went through the roof. Miss Nestle sees this as the beginning of the obesity epidemic. All because the USDA recommendations were negative – what is bad – rather than positive – what should we have instead. It is the same with a ban on anything that has a function, such as a plastic bag. Desperate, unconsidered measures will not yield good results.