Study Shows Benefits of Plastic Bag Bans As Davis’ Ban is Set to Start July 1

carry-out-bannerThe city of Davis has put out a single-use carryout bag ordinance page in advance of the ordinance that was passed on November 12, 2013, and which will go into effect July 1, 2014.

As the city explains, “All stores and restaurants located within the limits of the City of Davis that sell perishable or non-perishable goods. These include, but are not limited to, all grocery stores, convenience stores, minimarts, liquor stores, drug stores, restaurants and take-out food (i.e. fast food) establishments.”

Nonprofit and charitable reuse organizations do not have restrictions.  Under the ordinance, “Businesses may not distribute single-use plastic carryout bags at the point of sale” and “Businesses must charge a minimum of 10 cents for each paper or reusable carryout bag provided to a customer for the purpose of carrying purchased goods away.”

The city notes, “The Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance does not prohibit customers from using bags of any type that they bring to the store themselves or from carrying away goods that are not placed in a bag, in lieu of using bags provided by the store. If you can comfortably carry your paid purchases out by hand, that is one option; or your goods can be placed into the shopping cart or basket for transporting to their vehicle; where they can be unloaded.


The city adds that citizens have many choices available when they shop or order food. You may either:

  • bring your own bag (reusable cloth bag, paper bag, or plastic bag)
  • purchase a paper bag for 10 cents
  • purchase a reusable bag
  • carry your items out of the store without a bag

The city adds, “The 10 cent charge for recycled paper carryout bags encourages the use of reusable bags. This cost pass-through reimburses retailers for the costs of providing recycled paper carryout bags to their customers. All of the revenue from the cost pass-through remains with the store. Studies have shown that a charge of 10 cents per paper bag would discourage customers from simply switching from one single-use bag (plastic bags) to another (paper bags). Customers may bring their own reusable bags every time they shop to avoid paying 10 cents for a paper bag.”

An article Thursday in the PublicCEO notes that San Diego could become the next big city to limit single-use plastic bags following Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose, among at least sixty other communities.

Chris Kato a policy analyst at Equinox Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and policy center based in San Diego, notes, “Those plastic bags you saw on the side of the road on your way to work today? Whether thrown in the trash after one use or reused multiple times, those bags linger in the San Diego River or make their way to the ocean, where they last between 400 and 1,000 years.”

“Plastic bags also release toxins as they photo-degrade in landfills; about 95 percent of the 500 million plastic bags used annually in San Diego end up in a landfill,” he writes.

Mr. Kato argues that existing research suggests that the ban will not negatively impact the economy.

He writes, “Equinox Center, which supports the limited use of plastic bags, recently released a comprehensive study on the economic and environmental impacts of plastic-bag reduction policies. Our study calculated the impact of a reduction ordinance in San Diego based on data from other California cities. San Diego stands to reduce single-use bags by 86 percent — an annual decrease of 348 million bags.”

Equinox Center found that “local economies, including affected retailers and their customers, are not harmed in the long term. Plastic-bag reduction ordinances have been implemented successfully in 90 California municipalities.”

Two of the largest cities with reduction ordinances, San Jose and San Francisco, reported “no sustained negative (economic) impact to retailers” after enacting the ordinances. He notes, “A short-term increase in baggage costs, due to increased paper bag usage, is mitigated as consumers transition to reusable bags.”

“In fact, plastic-bag reductions are likely to eventually benefit the economy and save taxpayers and cities money,” he argued. “The city of San Diego most likely will experience savings through litter abatement. Plastic-bag cleanup isn’t cheap — it costs the city at least $160,000 a year.”

In San Francisco, “The Office of Economic Analysis released an assessment of projected economic impacts on the local economy related to the plastic-bag ordinance, including proposed increases in restrictions.”

San Francisco’s assessment, he notes, predicted a “slight positive impact on the local economy … as a result of the overall decrease in bag-related costs post-ordinance. It also noted that positive economic multiplier effects could occur alongside the projected increase in consumer spending associated with decreasing product costs passed on by retailers.”

San Francisco retailers would expect to see “a savings of $3 million over the course of a year under the strengthened ban, no longer having to pay for so many single-use bags.”

Mr. Kato also noted that the study suggests that plastic-bag reduction ordinances can spur new business. Los Angeles County, for example, “reported that several local reusable bag businesses emerged post-ban to meet the demands of the new market for reusable bags.”

“For consumers, Equinox’s study showed households experience an estimated cost of $7.70 in the first year after the ban to buy reusable bags and to account for fees associated with paper bag usage. Recurring costs should decrease over time because of the long lifespan of reusable bags,” Mr. Kato writes.

He adds, “The ordinance under consideration for San Diego includes a 10-cent paper bag fee; shoppers would be charged for a paper bag if they do not bring their own reusable bag. The fee goes back to the retailer to partially offset the cost of the paper bags and to comply with the ordinance. Customers on government-assistance programs would be exempt from the paper bag fee.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > The city adds that citizens have many choices available
    > when they shop or order food. You may either:

    David forgot that you can also use a bunch of the (still) free produce bags to carry out your stuff (this is popular in SF and the SF Peninsula where they are charging $0.10 for paper bags)…

    P.S. I’m betting that the “pro ban” people paid for the “study” (aka “report that says what they want it to say”)…

        1. David Greenwald

          Non-profit and non-partisan does not mean unbiased. And he admitted in his piece that they are supportive of the ban. That’s why you have to evaluate the study.

  2. Frankly

    What is missing in this “study” and the views of those stuck on hyper environmental crusades, is the value of human convenience. There is no attempt to do any valuation of that… the amount of time and other costs for consumers to bear. The bottom line is that the plastic bag ban is just another tax on consumers to satiate the unending obsession of some to control others based on dubious environmental benefits.

  3. Tia Will


    Agreed that the study did not address the issue of human convenience. What your comment does not address is that human behavior is mutable and that people are very adaptable and may well not miss the “convenience” of today once they appreciate that there is a better way of doing something than what they have been taught to believe is the norm.

    1. growth issue

      “better way of doing something than what they have been taught to believe is the norm.”

      Who determines the better way of doing things? One’s better way of doing things isn’t necessarily someone else’s. If you feel you have a better way of doing things go for it, just leave the rest of us alone because maybe we feel we have a good way of doing things too.

      1. Tia Will


        I agree that people’s opinion of “better” ways to do things varies.

        So how does it seem to you if I do not “tell you what to do” but make suggestions such as Michelle is doing in reporting her family’s experience. Are you open minded to alternatives or is your default immediately to “don’t tell me what to do” and resistance rather than thoughtful consideration ?

          1. Tia Will

            In this country, I have faced doing that my entire life since we have the culture of ” rugged individualism” that Frankly so extols.

            This is true regardless of how many lives would have been saved had people not defended their “right to smoke” and the tobacco companies “right ” to lie and continue producing a known lethal product while convincing children it was cool to get started for just one egregious example. To not embrace this would mean to have to leave the country, and I am still here.

            However, you did not choose to respond to my question.

          2. Tia Will

            Yes, its comforting. Too bad it represents the American myth, not the American reality for the majority.

          3. Frankly

            Not a myth at all. It is still one of the easiest places in the country and in history for the average Joe to make a tremendous living. But thanks mostly to your politics, that opportunity has declined.

            That is the Saul Alinsky “means to an end” trick. Just keep focusing on that poor have-not ignoring the root causes for his failures to have, and instead making it and only it the argument.

            The problem you and others have with this argument in the good old US of A, is that most of those you point out as haves… were once have nots. So how do you reconcile that?

          4. SouthofDavis

            Tia wrote:

            > Too bad it represents the American myth,
            > not the American reality for the majority.

            I thought Tia would like the guy since he lives in a LEED Home and drives an electric car (and maybe cut him some slack and let him choose to pick up his dogs poop with old plastic grocery bags vs. using reusable bags and washing them with recycled water.

            P.S. The “majority” of Americas don’t really want a big LEED home and fancy electric car (and don’t even bother to get an undergrad degree)…

          5. Tia Will

            I doubt beyond health, enough to eat, an adequate place to live and someone with whom to share out lives, that either of us have any idea what the “majority” of Americans really want. I suspect that despite the story that we tell ourselves that each generation is supposed to be
            “better off” than their parents that our desires are quite diverse.

          6. Michelle Millet

            OMG Frankly, I think of you every time I see this commercial, which to be honest I find a little nauseating (not you, the commercial).

            I go with taking all of August off and owning a less expensive car.

    2. Frankly

      Another point I am in 100% agreement with.

      One of the reasons we keep marching forward in progress is that the human animal is almost infinitely trainable. We create “new normal” at an increasing pace. One of the reasons that human civilizations keep crashing is that the human animal is almost infinitely trainable. We forget about the old normal, lose perspective, and grow entitled. We don’t care about what we have… only what we don’t have and what we believe we cannot get.

      Liberal-progressives exploit this tendency in two ways.

      1 – They forget and they count on others to forget where we are and how we got here.

      2 – They know they can incrementally grab more and more control without causing those being damaged by it to recognize the difference.

      So, we keep marching forward to the liberal-progressive definition of progress… even as it is truly regression… because we keep learning a new normal.

      The reason for our Constitution was to counter this tendency… but when so many people and our media stop caring about it, and let tyranny creep in… then we eventually can only shrug and watch it all collapse.

      Is a plastic bag ban that big of a deal?

      Well no… but it is just part of the collection that is the big deal.

      1. Tia Will

        Each time you post a stereotypical “how liberals must think” I have the irresistible urge to counter. So this time, the quick form stereotype is the following:

        1) Many conservatives forget the full story of “how we got here”. Such as the story of genocide, or the story of child labor and worker exploitation as in garment factory fires, or slavery and count on others to forget it too…..or to erroneously claim that it no longer happens or matters.

        2) Many conservatives know that they can incrementally grab more by manipulating laws to favor their positions as in the Koch brothers by using their money to convince those who in the current system have virtually no hope of being an astronaut, let alone Bill Gates that this wealth is within their grasp if they only work harder at their 3 less than minimum wage jobs.

        As for tyranny, it has many forms. I would count the coexistence of unbridled wealth of the few in face of poverty for the many, amongst them.

        1. Frankly

          You mention business leaders manipulation of the laws by for favor of their positions, but fail to mention the same from your Messiah President.

          You mention the Koch brothers but not George Soros.

          You mention genocide, child labor, worker exploitation as if it exists today, failing to admit or acknowledge that where we are today includes nary a whiff of the same.

          Your point “unbridled wealth of a few”… well let’s just say you don’t seem to really know much about that other than to repeat extreme leftist talking points.

          Current federal tax-and-spending policies combine to redistribute $1.5 trillion each year from the top 40% of Americans to the bottom 60%. To close the income gap to zero would require $4 trillion.

          The top earners depend heavily on salaries. In 2010 the top 1% earned 36% of their incomes from salaries and wages (what the CBO calls labor income), 22% from businesses, farms and partnerships, and just 19% from capital gains. The majority of their income would thus be taxed today either at the corporate or the highest marginal rate rather than at the lower capital-gains rate of 23.8%.

          Emanuel Saez of the University of California ( Berkeley ) has shown in a series of papers that, as he writes, “The top income earners today are not ‘rentiers’ deriving their incomes from past wealth but rather are the ‘working rich,’ highly paid employees or new entrepreneurs who have not yet accumulated fortunes comparable to those accumulated during the Gilded Age.”
          The typical “rich” person today is someone who works for a salary and accumulates stocks and bonds through savings, retirement plans and (for business executives) stock options.

          From 1980 to 2010, as the top 1% increased their share of total before-tax income to 15% from 9%, their share of the individual income tax soared to 39% of the total paid, up from 17%. Most were paying federal taxes at the highest marginal rate: In 1980 that rate was 70% and in 2010 it was 35.5%—but it has now climbed back to 39.6%. The share of federal taxes paid climbed dramatically in those 30 years even as marginal rates were cut almost in half.

          So, we are already taxing the “rich” – who are primarily wage earners like yourself and me – more than 50%, and it isn’t helping secure your egalitarian dreams of lifting up enough have-nots.

          And to reach that collectivist sense of economic parity that drives you and others to demand even greater tax and redistribute policies, we would have to more than triple the taxes on those top wage earners… or tax them over 150%.

          See the problem?

          So what other solutions might we start talking about?

          1. Don Shor

            From 1980 to 2010, as the top 1% increased their share of total before-tax income to 15% from 9%, their share of the individual income tax soared to 39% of the total paid, up from 17%. Most were paying federal taxes at the highest marginal rate: In 1980 that rate was 70% and in 2010 it was 35.5%—but it has now climbed back to 39.6%. The share of federal taxes paid climbed dramatically in those 30 years even as marginal rates were cut almost in half.

            So, it seems there is one important data point missing here. Their share of before-tax income went from 9% to 15%. What happened to their share of after-tax income?

            “Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent after adjusting for inflation — an increase in income of $973,100 per household — compared to increases of 25 percent ($11,200 per household) for the middle fifth of households and 16 percent ($2,400 per household) for the bottom fifth…”

            So it would seem that there is plenty of money left over after those increases in taxation. (

          2. Frankly

            Does not change the facts laid out.

            And there was not much crying going on about the poor lacking a fair shake prior to 2007. That is what a robust economy (even if artificially primed by stupid government policy) will do for you.

            You did notice that we had a recession and the net worth of the top 5% fell significantly… several orders of magnitude as a percentage of wealth more than did the bottom 95%. They gained about 30% of it back with this last stock market surge, but it is still far below the glory days that you and others with a left-tilt like to keep pointing backwards at.

          3. Frankly

            And more importantly, this proves the falsehood and lies of the Democrat’s class war… one that demonizes all those fat cat investment bankers as “stealing” all the wealth.

            Turns out that most of those “rich” people are just like Tia… just a professional working for a living.

          4. Tia Will

            I see the problem if you insist on maintaining the same social and financial structure that we have today. However, there are many countries that do not have our dramatic disparities and yet maintain free and open societies. I do not advocate for more tax and spend as you say. I have advocated for a system in which everyone who contributes in a positive manner to our society be it as a student, farm laborer, doctor, chief executive is paid the same living wage. If people want more money, they can spend more of what we all have, their time. This would allow people to use their best talents and pursue their true loves without having to worry about whether or not they would be able to support their families.

            And as for your comments that we do not have any exploitation of workers today, I strongly disagree. I believe it was last year that two boys smothered in a grain silo in the mid west, one was I believe 14. This was not a family enterprise, they were working for wages. Coal mining still exists under extremely dangerous conditions. But my favorite current example is WalMart whose model remains to pay workers so little that they encourage them to apply for supplemental government benefits bringing a new meaning to public-private partnership I guess.

          5. Don Shor

            ” The struggles of the low-income U.S. consumer are playing out in Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s grocery aisles.

            The world’s largest retailer, which gets more than half its sales from groceries, on Thursday gave a disappointing full-year forecast. It blamed sharp cuts in food stamp benefits and higher payroll taxes that are will hit disposable income for its core customers….The cuts last year to benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the largest U.S. anti-hunger program, have been particularly painful for Wal-Mart. One in five Wal-Mart shoppers relies on food stamps…”

            Evidently Wal-Mart’s model also relies on government assistance to its customers. Their quarterly profits dropped 22%.

          6. Frankly

            Sure Don… business can also be corrupted by the destructive fat hand of government over-shadowing the otherwise beneficial invisible hand of capitalism. So what is your point?

          7. Frankly

            However, there are many countries that do not have our dramatic disparities and yet maintain free and open societies.

            No there are not.

            Why don’t you list them? And of course the only ones that even come close, and the only ones that any liberal can list are a few northern European countries. Just those few. Nothing from the past. A tiny little bit of hope that the American liberal tries to exploit to prevent ever having to admit their wrongness. But so NOT comparable to the US, and so MISSING in fact-to-fact comparisons that they miss by a long shot.

            And while you are at it, check to see which of them have a national or local minimum wage.

            And lastly, what is your and others’ problem with “disparities”. Waa waa waa. That is all I get when I hear this. Someone has more. So what? Someone always has more.

            I get the sense that liberals cannot control their envy.

            In this country what your neighbor has does not impact your personal prosperity… it can only inflame your envy.

            If you want more, then go get more. What is stopping you? (I am using the term “you” in a general sense.)

            I will answer that question. What is stopping you is that you resent having to do the work and take the risks that would lead you to more. You resent the lifestyle of the pursuit of wealth. You resent it so much that you don’t even like the thought of having the poor do the same. To make yourself feel better about your own fears and dislikes of the lifestyles and work-ethics chosen by those that pursue more and earn more, you have taken to demonizing them. You have manufactured a moral stance on this… that somehow your low-risk, low-stress, many days off, early retirement, government take care of people life preference is MORALLY SUPERIOR to those other people. You are right and they are wrong. And to help them too you are going to help society dismantle the underpinning of the economy that they rely on. And as they no longer can pursue and make more, then your egalitarian needs will be better met and all will be well in the world… let me change that “your” world.

            Except it will not. Look at Argentina. Look at Venezuela. This Rules For Radicals approach is a hazard. It is dangerous of us and for our children. You are wrong in your worldview… so wrong. You and so many others.

            Here is the secret Tia. The problem with the have-nots is primarily the victim mentality in their heart and heads. That is why people from Asia migrate here and make a very good living. They don’t have that same European liberal matriarchal brain-washing problem that stifles their own self-determination. They don’t have that same central and south American hopelessness brought on by a culture that trains so many people to seek the path of least resistance… to just get by.

            I am irritated. I am irritated that you and others don’t seem to be able to connect the dots for what has primarily contributed to your good life. You think it is the helping hand of government, and not the invisible hand of freedom and free markets.

            I don’t care that people are getting rich off the global economy. I do care that not enough people have jobs. Yet your political party has come out lately to justify the loss of jobs that their policies are causing. Millions of jobs lost from Obamacare and minimum wage increases. But then this must be okay for you, because it is such a travesty for someone to make so much less, that it is better to have them not work at all… right? That is what Nancy Pelosi believes.

            You keep supporting policies that keep removing the lowest rungs of the ladder to higher prosperity and then you keep complaining about the growing income gap. Seems to me that this is by design. Liberals really don’t like the US and want to transform it into something much more in the model of soviet collectivism. I think we need a more reserved Joseph McCarthy at this point in time.

          8. Don Shor


            Based on this it appears that Australia and Canada win.

            Liberals really don’t like the US and want to transform it into something much more in the model of soviet collectivism. I think we need a more reserved Joseph McCarthy at this point in time.

            I don’t really see how disliking inequality makes someone ‘not like the US’. I’m very fond of the United States, but I don’t think conditions are perfect and I support trying to make better lives for my fellow Americans. We may differ as to how to go about that. But then, I’m not a liberal, or so I’m told.
            What exactly would you like your ‘reserved Joseph McCarthy’ to do?

          9. Tia Will


            What is bothering me about disparities is child hunger,
            lack of medical care ( largely being addressed by Obamacare) which neither of us like for very different reasons, homelessness and lack of education. Since you are so enamored of the “ladder” analogy, please explain to me how one is to reach the second rung of the ladder if the lowest rung is not sufficient to feed, cloth and house you ?

  4. Day Man

    Gosh, I’m glad I’m not a reporter. When you don’t point to studies, you’re accused (rightfully) of hand-waving. When you do point to studies, then their validity is questioned rather than debating the broader issue. There’s no way to win. Yes, of course we can bring up all the usual questions of the study’s validity, just as we can with any study on any side of any issue.

    I see this as a clear battle between industry interests and environmentalists. It’s obvious what the industry has to gain by fighting this fight. They’re doing their job of protecting their interests, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think environmentalists have some ulterior motive here – they’re picking this battle because they think it’s best for the environment (and no, Frankly’s “to satiate the unending obsession of some to control others” doesn’t strike me as a realistic motive). And notably, the environmentalists are winning this battle. Communities all across the country are passing plastic bag ordinances. I’d bet good money that we’ll see state action soon in California, despite the industry efforts to the contrary (our State Senator has been a big player in this field), and within our lifetimes this will be the norm nationwide.

    I embrace this change as progress. If you don’t, nitpicking about a study isn’t a powerful critique.

    1. SouthofDavis

      DayMan wrote:

      > I don’t think environmentalists have some ulterior motive here –
      > they’re picking this battle because they think it’s best for the environment

      As an anti-war environmentalist it saddens me to say this; while most recent “environmental laws” are supported by people that feel they are “doing what is best for the environment” the people with the political muscle to get things going are doing it to get rich (Al Gore didn’t grow his net worth by over $30 Million a year since leaving office just “doing what is best for the environment”) just like top guys at Halliburton did not make as much (or more) doing “what is best for the people of Iraq) even if most the people on the right think they are doing what is best.

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