The plastic bag industry has already launched its drive to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot that would repeal SB 270. They have contracted with the American Progressive Bag Alliance to gather the required 504,760 signatures for the referendum and to qualify for the ballot by the deadline on December 29.
The plastic bag ban will take effect statewide in California on July 1, 2015, one year after a similar ordinance took effect in the city of Davis.
Spotted yesterday at Walmart was a signature collector who said he was funded by “the guys who make plastic bags. It’s 2000 jobs lost.” When pressed on the point, he stated, “Hey, it’s a job.”
At the end of September, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 270 into law, prohibiting grocery stores and pharmacies from distributing single-use plastic bags after July 1 of 2015, and thus aligning state law with ordinances passed by a growing number of local governments in California to reduce plastic waste.
The ink was not even dry on the signature when plastic and paper bag manufacturers, who mounted a vigorous late campaign in an attempt to overcome strong support from environmentalists and grocers who supported the proposal, threatened to put the measure to a vote of the people.
“It’s yet another job-killing, big grocer cash grab masquerading as an environmental bill,” Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance said.
The group claims “that bans at the local and state level hurt the economy, kill jobs, tax the poor and don’t actually help the environment.”
A poll released at the end of October by a bipartisan group of pollsters commissioned by the LA Times, however, shows that the ban has “broad support among voters, presenting a challenge for industry groups that hope to overturn the law.”
Sixty percent of the voters who responded to the survey support the ban. More interesting is that the support is broader than current policies. 52 percent of respondents live in a community that has already banned disposable plastic bags and 60 percent support the ban, with just 35 percent in opposition.
The Times poll found that even 52 percent of the people who do not live under local restrictions support the ban.
“Even the people who haven’t been exposed to it don’t think it’s egregious,” said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc, the Democratic half of the polling team.
The LA Times talked to David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, which was the Republican half of the polling team, and he argued that ideological arguments were “unlikely to carry the day in a referendum battle.”
“If this becomes an ideological thing, that’s not enough to persuade voters in a Democratic-leaning state where voters aren’t necessarily opposed to more government if they agree with … what it’s trying to do,” he said.
Where opposition might make some headway is on the issue of the ten-cent charge. But by the time the measure comes up for a vote, it will have been in place statewide for a year at least, and in 40 percent of the state in local communities for a lot longer than that.
Thus far, over 120 local governments in California have passed ordinances banning single-use bags in some fashion.
“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said Governor Brown in signing the legislation. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”
“A throw-away society is not sustainable. This new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year. Moving from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags is common sense. Governor Brown’s signature reflects our commitment to protect the environment and reduce government costs,” Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the legislation, added.
A majority among all races and income levels would vote to uphold the ban, according to the pollsters.
But the industry is gearing up for a costly referendum. The Times reports that South Carolina’s Hilex Poly, the large plastic bag manufaturer, has already donated over half a million dollars to the effort.
The Times notes that Mr. Daniels is claiming, “We’re getting inundated with calls from Californians thanking us for doing this… It’s very encouraging for our industry.”
However, Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, which headed the statewide bag ban effort, told the Times that “he very much doubted that bag makers are being swamped with calls of support from state residents.”
The Times adds, “Murray said the industry’s claims of broad support mirror its insistence that plastic bags are environmentally safe. ‘They don’t have a real argument, so they’re using bogus arguments,’ he said.”
“For nearly 10 million Californians, life without plastic grocery bags is already a reality,” said Mr. Murray. “Bag bans reduce plastic pollution and waste, lower bag costs at grocery stores, and now we’re seeing job growth in California at facilities that produce better alternatives.”
The American Progressive Bag Alliance contends that the new law threatens nearly 2,000 well-paying California jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry and also “represents a government-sponsored, billion-dollar transfer of wealth from working families to grocers in the form of fees on paper and thicker plastic bags; no money collected from bag fees will be used for environmental programs or for any public purpose.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting