Day: May 10, 2023

‘Nip’ ban proposal should be thrown in the trash

Earlier this week, local Joplin businessman Jon Thomas Buck proposed that the Joplin City Council ban the sale and distribution of mini bottles of liquor.

Buck wants Joplin to follow the “nip ban” as adopted in the Boston area.

When asked about the proposal, Buck said, “We all know Joplin has struggled with issues related to litter and cleanliness in recent years. … One of the biggest culprits is the abundance of these small, single-serving bottles of alcohol. They are often consumed on the go and then discarded without a second thought, contributing to unsightly and unhealthy conditions in our city.”

But Joplin residents must ask themselves: Is this a good justification for banning what is essentially a small version of an otherwise legal product? The answer is no.

A mini-bottle ban is just another encroachment from the nanny state, this time aimed at adult consumers who prefer smaller bottles because they are convenient, ultimately punishing drinkers who want small serving sizes.

For public health, there is little evidence to suggest that prohibition of smaller-sized products works, certainly not from a harm reduction angle. If Joplin does go down the road of banning mini bottles, consumers will ultimately make one of two choices in response. The first is that they will buy these convenient bottles beyond Joplin’s city limits. This is obviously irritating for consumers and problematic for Joplin retailers as this motion tilts the scales against them.

The alternative to buying mini bottles elsewhere is, ironically, buying larger bottles of alcohol. It is hard to see how fewer alcohol-related incidents will arise from a policy that mandates consumers buy bottles of liquor 3 ounces or larger. Imagine trying to curb obesity by mandating that no meal can be fewer than 800 calories?

By stomping on convenience for consumers, Buck’s motion will actually end up nudging drinkers to larger bottles, and the possibility of more consumption and more alcohol-related incidents. This is a lose-lose scenario.

The second major critique of mini bottles is disposal. Because they are small, too many drinkers dispose of them by simply throwing them out on the street. Of course, this is unacceptable. There are laws against littering, and they need to be enforced. But surely the City Council can identify a problem that needs to be solved without deferring to prohibitionist policies? Other options, such as the expansion of trash bins on city streets or more by-law litter enforcement, should be exhausted before going down the route of a complete ban of a product consumers clearly love.

Those who support the ban highlight that because these bottles are small, they are virtually impossible to recycle. Some municipal websites across the United States explain that they often fall through the cracks of the sorting machines, and thus should be put in your trash bag as opposed to being recycled.

This is only true using dated machinery and recycling technology. Through chemical depolymerization, the repurposing of the bonds in plastics, virtually all plastic can be recycled. Take for example Alterra Energy in Ohio. Their advanced recycling plant takes in 40-50 tons of hard to recycle plastics (like mini bottles) and transforms them back into the building blocks for new plastic production, extending the life cycle of these hard to recycle plastics indefinitely.

Is Buck trying to reinvent the wheel of prohibition?

The prohibition of alcohol 100 years ago failed. The mindset of banning products that were deemed a nuisance caused more harm than good, which is why alcohol was then legalized.

Prohibition always promises results, but ends up creating a long list of negative second-order effects, many of which are worse than the initial issue of substance use.

Buck’s campaign to treat us all like children when it comes to the purchase of nips is going to have all the glory, majesty and success of previous prohibitions. The nip ban motion should be thrown in the trash can, along with your empty nips.

Originally published here

The War Over Gas Stoves Is Arguably Just the Beginning

Gas stove bans made headlines earlier this year, and caused significant uproar. Over concerns about climate change, and air quality, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission hinted that gas stoves are dangerous and could be banned. Although the Commission later walked those comments back, the debate over gas stoves unfolded, and now New York State has set the table for a gas stove phase out, eliminating these appliances from being built in new residential buildings.  

As it stands right now, 3 states, and 26 cities have passed gas stove phase out plans, while 20 states have banned such bans, preemptively stopping cities from creating “all electric” building codes. 

But the war over your kitchen appliances doesn’t end with gas stoves.

In fact, Maine, through proposed regulations on PFAS, are taking the debate over appliances to the next level. PFAS are man made chemicals, used in a variety of products like microchips, medical devices, waterproof clothing and non-stick cookware. These chemicals can pose a threat to consumers, depending on the circumstances, with the most famous instance being when Dupont criminally dumped these chemicals into water sources.  Maine, in an attempt to limit exposure to PFAS, irrespective of consumer risk, is set to enact a ban on all products which contain intentionally added PFAS by 2030.

Sounds good right? No one wants the products in their homes to be dangerous to our health. It certainly seems like a good idea if all you consider are the headlines, or even worse the rants of late night comedian John Oliver. But, as with everything, the devil is in the details, because as it stands now, most of your appliances in your kitchen would be banned in Maine if nothing changes to the legislation.

Yes, you read that right. Pretty much every appliance you have in your kitchen relies on PFAS in some way shape or form. And ironically, for legislators at least, the use of PFAS in these circumstances are not just better for the environment, but they present no risk for consumer health.

Take refrigerators for example. Modern fridges use HFO (hydrofluoroolefin), which is technically PFAS, and would be subject to the ban in Maine. This is, to put it mildly, a disaster in the making.

The use of HFO for fridges is a huge net benefit for consumer safety and the environment. Historically, refrigeration was only possible by using ammonia and methyl chloride, which are toxic to humans. Understandably that is concerning. 

Then, as technology advanced, refrigeration was made possible by the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but those heavily depleted the ozone. Another big problem. That paved the way for HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) in the 1990s, which still depleted the ozone, then HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) but those significantly contributed to global warming. That is where HFO came into use, which not only have no ozone-depleting potential, but they also represent 0.1% of the Global Warming Potential of previously used HFCs. They’re also low in toxicity and generally non-flammable. 

This is undeniably an upgrade from the days of ammonia cooling, which if humans are exposed to is toxic, causes severe skin burns, and is toxic to aquatic life.

Now supporters of the ban celebrate this as a win, citing that refrigeration can be done with “natural refrigerants”, i.e. CO2 or ammonia. For ammonia, there are good reasons why industry moved on decades ago, as already mentioned. And for CO2, well that isn’t a net benefit for the environment. Target, for example, compared two models for refrigeration, one using HFCs (which have high global warming potential), and one using CO2, and found that the CO2 fridges used 20% more energy. And for systems that use modern HFOs, they found an average annual decrease in energy consumption of 3% when compared to systems using HFCs. The idea that these refrigerants are viable alternatives to the modern use of HFO’s just doesn’t hold up, certainly not if climate change or consumer safety is a serious priority. Legislators need to avoid falling for a naturalistic fallacy.

But now, if lawmakers in Maine have their way, modern fridges are just not an option anymore, and reverting to older technologies like the ones listed above carry a huge list of potential dangers. 

The war over gas stoves was just the beginning. If more states like Maine go rogue creating opaque rules, consumers are in for a world of pain. Everyday items like fridges, or air conditioning units, will have to revert to the dangerous chemicals of distant memory, giving consumers poorer products that are potentially risky.

Originally published here

Efficiently Enact MACPC Amendments for Stronger Aviation Consumer Rights

KUALA LUMPUR, 27th April 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) urges the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to immediately implement the amendments to the Malaysian Consumer Protection Code (MACPC) which should be implemented in the first quarter of 2023 to improve the rights of aviation users.

Malaysian Consumer Choice Center representative, Tarmizi Anuwar said: “Issues involving consumers such as flight delays and cancellations, reimbursement methods and overdue periods, passenger rights and voucher redemption have become more serious since the outbreak of Covid-19. Although the pandemic has ended, this problem is still recurring and requires immediate action by Mavcom to improve the rights of aviation consumers.”

Consumer Rights

In 2022 alone, Mavcom has received a total of 8,789 cases of complaints from customers of which the three highest complaints involve refunds, lost, damaged and delayed baggage and flight cancellations. This is the highest complaint case since it was first introduced in 2016.

Tarmizi also said that the delay in the implementation of the MACPC amendment may cause the number of customer complaints and problems for this year to increase due to the development of international and domestic passengers as well as the increase in aircraft operations including the resumption of various flight routes after the pandemic.

Read the full text here

The Gas-Powered Banning Bandwagon: Why Politicians Should Leave Leaf Blowers Alone

According to studies on motivation, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are key driversof human behavior. And those embodying an entrepreneurial mindset will capitalize on their desire to create by leveraging networks and opportunities as they arise from the marketplace.

Consumer interests and consumption patterns serve as powerful signals regarding what is of value, and economic pressures ensure that what is pursued is worth producing.

Unfortunately, some innovations are being demanded by politicians, not markets. Take, for example, advancements in electric and battery-powered tools. Such machinery has been gaining significant traction over the past few decades, as iterations and adjustments have occurred through learning by doing.

Major benefits of battery-powered equipment include reduced noise and reduced emissions. As such, for landscapers, battery-powered leaf blowers seem to be an intriguing option. These types of blowers improve working conditions (no need for ear protection or concerns for breathing gas fumes all day), improve workflow (no concerns with disturbances at odd hours), and appease customers who are environmentally conscious.

The disadvantages, however, still outweigh the positives, given that battery blowers are less effective and rather costly compared to those that are gas-powered. For the time being, battery blowers only make sense for homeowners with light maintenance needs.

Be that as it may, industry interests and product improvements are creating incentives for battery options to become the standard choice over time, but government officials are demanding that the time for change is now.

It’s been a little over a year since the District of Columbia phased out gas blowers due to both noise and air pollution. Cities and states have gotten into the act too, banning gas-powered leaf blowers despite the fact that battery-powered blowers increase costs to both landscapers and their customers. Moreover, inefficient leaf cleanup can also create environmental costs due to storm water management matters.

Read the full text here

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