Statewide Support Growing for Plastic Bag Ban

A signature gatherer outside a local big box collects signatures in November
A signature gatherer outside a local big box collects signatures in November

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.

If everyone who reads this post could pledge just $10 per month, we would meet all financial goals for 2015 and the Vanguard would be fully fiscally viable

“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

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. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Statewide Support Growing for Plastic Bag Ban

    A better headline would have been “Poll paid for by Bag Ban supporter says Statewide Support Growing for Plastic Bag Ban”

    I’m wondering if the “poll” even mentioned the new $0.10/paper bag Tax/Fee (that is part of the bag ban).

  2. Barack Palin

    I’ve probably had to buy about 50 paper bags since the ban was initiated in Davis in July.  I carry bags in my car but often forget to take them in the store.  You have some good little bagophobes who I’m sure buy very few bags and then you have those who always buy bags.  It’s been my experience that students rarely bring their own bags and I’ll say that maybe half the other shoppers do.

    So averaging it out I who sometimes buys bags will pay $10/year

    Bagophobes will probably pay something like $2/year for when they forget or need more than they brought

    Then there are those who never bring a bag who will pay $33/year according to the stats in this link

    So let’s say one third of California’s population falls into each of the categories I outlined.  You come out with an average cost to Californians for paper bags at $15/year times 39,000,000 residents equals a total cost of $585,000,000/year.

    Now that’s $585 million taken out of consumer’s pockets and given to the stores.  That’s $585 million that consumers no longer have to pay for other goods and necessities.  A nice windfall for the grocery stores but a drag on California’s economy.



  3. Gunrocik

    I buy 3-4 bags every time I go to the store. I will bet by the end of the year I’ve spent at least $10 on bags at Nugget. Which is probably way less than what I’ve spent on food I ended up not eating during that same time…and that $10 might add up to one eighth of one percent of what I’ve spent at Nugget during that time.

  4. Don Strong

    How can the disposable plastic bag industry say that the ban is a job killer. Look at the guy collecting signatures. He has a job. Bet the bag industry gives him a good salary with benefit too. Right?

  5. Frankly

    Polled the right way after being honestly educated on the facts related to single-use plastic bags and their alternatives, banning plastic bags would not be supported by the majority of Californians.

    A statewide plastic bag ban would just add to the justification of California being seen as ungovernable, business unfriendly and filled with pot-damaged, tree-hugging idiots that somehow slipped into power and are no less out of control than when they only protested for a living.

    Go check out Westlake Market in west Davis and note the type of plastic bags they use for $10.  This are more hardy and sturdy… I gladly pay $.10 for them… and like the free plastic bags I used to get from grocery stores, I reuse them until they are no longer functional and then I recycle them (or if filled with dog poo, I throw them away).   If I get paper bags, I put them in the recycle bin immediately.

    And if California does this full state ban, there will be more stores using the Westlake plastic bag alternative, and the so called “reusable” (woven plastic or fiber) bag industry will respond and the cost will fall due to economies of scale.  They will end up costing $.25 or less.  And instead of all those itsy bitsy barely there “single-use” plastic bags that we used to get and that ended up some in our recycle bins and some in landfills, we will start seeing more and more larger and more voluminous “multi-use” bags as they accumulate at homes and in cars because they are cheap enough that shoppers just pay for new ones out of convenience, and then have to discard them as they accumulate because they cannot be recycled.

    And all those pot-damaged, tree-hugging idiots that somehow got to positions of power and influence in the state won’t care because they don’t really care to think anyway.

  6. DanH

    A statewide ban of single use shopping bags is well overdue. It’s time to get rid of these wildlife killing, unnecessary plastic bags.

    Over the years I have collected at least ten reusable shopping bags. The only bag I paid for is a nice insulated bag that I use for frozen food. The rest of the bags were all given to me as promotional items and bear product branding of one kind or another. My favorite grocery bag is a large duck canvas bag I got from the Davis Enterprise. Maybe it was one of the kid’s bags from when they were doing paper routes years ago.

    Duck canvas is cotton and very durable. It lasts for years and can be washed. If you want something more hip maybe hemp bags are more to your style. The non-woven fabric polyester bags are junk. They don’t last very long and won’t degrade well in a landfill.

    The bottom line is that I haven’t paid very much for my collection of reusable grocery/shopping bags and they work just fine. The only tricky part was learning to keep them in the car for grocery runs but this old dog can learn new tricks. I make a point of putting the bags in the car right after I unload groceries to the kitchen.

  7. Mark_Murray

    I don’t mean to question the extrapolation skills of the math geniuses that have already posted, but this policy is already the law in more than 120 California cities and counties, and we don’t have to speculate on what it might cost. We have the actual data from some pretty big towns (like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Mateo County).

    Here are the facts:

    1) Single-use bag generation is down 90%–incluing paper bags..

    2) The Total Cost of providing grocery bags to consumers has gone down from $21.77/hh to $3.32/hh.

    3) Consumption of paper bags in LA County (2 yrs after the ban) is just 19 paper bags per capita annually.

    4) In LA County, 53% of consumers receiving a paperbag had to pay the 10 cent charge (the balance are exempt).

    (Barack Palin: respectfully, your extrapolation is absurd. Even the fiscal analysis paid for by Bag Ban Opponents suggests that the total statewide bag charge will only be $83 to $44 million annually–substantially less than the current $400 million cost of bags)


    Three Statewide polls have been conducted by three separate organizations, and all three show virtually the same result: 57-62% of voters support the ban (with 10 cent charge); and 32-35% oppose.

    But here’s the most revealing info in the polling: Support for the Bag ban increases 5%-10% across the ideological spectrum after the ban has been in place. For example, in the more than 100 communities where plastic bags have already been banned, Republican voters surveyed say they support the policy 63% to 31%.


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