While the plastic bag industry has already launched its drive to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot that would repeal SB 270, the supporters of the ban have lined up an impressive list of support with elected officials from 115 California cities and counties joining the ban.
As the Vanguard reported in November, the industry has contracted with the American Progressive Bag Alliance to gather the required 504,760 signatures for the referendum, 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.
Locally, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs was the only city councilmember from Davis to make the list, despite the council’s support for an ordinance that took effect on July 1, 2014.
These are the leaders that have formally signed on as endorsers of the effort to protect SB 270. They include elected officials from California’s six largest cities and at least 10 are from cities that have yet to adopt their own local bag bans.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced yesterday a proposal that would prohibit single-use plastic bags at stores in the city in the event that opponents of the newly-adopted statewide ban are able to force a public vote on that legislation. The ban would be identical to restrictions approved in September by Gov. Jerry Brown. The law would permit plastic bags to hold produce and some other grocery items, but ban single-use plastic bags at checkout counters. Shoppers could bring their own bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents.
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,” said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance.
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. Fifty-two 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.
The industry, however, is fighting back; they have already poured more than $2.7 million into the effort, mostly raised by plastic bag manufacturers from South Carolina, New Jersey, Texas, and China.
Signature gatherers are getting roughly $2.50 for each signature.
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,” added Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the legislation.
Each year, more than 13 billion single-use plastic bags are handed out by retailers. According to CalRecycle, just 3 percent are actually recycled in California. Plastic bags cause litter, slow sorting and jam machinery at recycling centers.
The combined cost of single-use plastic bags to California consumers and state and local government for use, clean-up and disposal is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. SB 270 phases out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and pharmacies.
Single-use plastic bags are also harmful to the environment, killing thousands of birds, turtles and other species. A study commissioned by the US Marine Debris Monitoring Program found that single-use plastic bags remain one of the top items found consistently during annual beach cleanups. Additionally, plastic items are estimated to compose 60-80 percent of all marine debris and 90 percent of all floating debris worldwide.
“Single-use plastic bags litter our beaches, our mountains, deserts, rivers, streams and lakes. SB 270 addresses this problem while striking the right balance. It protects the environment as well as California jobs as we transition to reusable bags and a greener economy,” said Senator Padilla.
“For nearly 10 million Californians, life without plastic grocery bags is already a reality,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told the LA Times in October. “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.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting