State muscles grocers over plastic bags

Aug. 21, 2012

Katy Grimes: The plastic bag activists are at it again, and they are nothing, if not persistent. With the eleventh bill regulating plastic bags in less than 10 years, grocery stores don’t have a chance in California.

Passed today by the Assembly, SB 1219, the latest plastic bag regulation bill, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, will require grocery stores to implement, manage, and report on the “At-Store Recycling Program” to the Cal Recycle state agency.

Besides imposing more rules and regulations on privately-owned grocery stores, SB 1219 which appears to be aimed at large grocers like WalMart, Target and other large supermarket chains, will require that stores “place recycling bins in a readily accessible location for consumers, assure the collected bags are recycled, and provide reusable bags. Additionally, stores track the collection, transport, and recycling of plastic carryout bags and regulated manufacturers provide educational materials to assist in recycling (see requirements).”

This could be the work of a full-time employee in some large stores.

“This bill is a really, really bad idea,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, said on the Assembly floor during debate Tuesday. “Plastics manufacturers are leaving the state. And we’re telling grocery stores, ‘you must take back this product.'”

Assemblyman Brian Jones found irony in a bill specifying what stores must do to recycle, given that much of the purchased food and products put inside of the bags is packaged in plastic. “Is this the best use of our time?” Jones asked.

Specifically, SB 1219 will:

1)Requires stores, defined as supermarkets and stores over 10,000 square feet that include a pharmacy, to establish an at-store recycling program for plastic carryout bags. The
Program requires that:

a) Plastic bags provided by the store must have a label that encourages customers to return the bag for recycling;

b) Stores provide clearly labeled and easily accessible recycling bins;

c) All bags collected be recycled in a manner consistent with the local jurisdiction’s recycling plan;

d) Stores must maintain records relating to the Program for at least three years and make the records available to the local jurisdiction or the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) upon request; and,

e) Stores must make reusable bags available.

2)Requires bag manufacturers to develop educational materials to encourage source reduction and recycling and to make the materials available to stores.

3)Preempts local governments from requiring stores that are complying with the Program to implement separate bag recycling programs, additional auditing or reporting requirements, or
imposing a bag fee.

4)Authorizes a local government or the state to levy fines for stores that violate these requirements.

All of this was set to sunset on January 1, 2013, but SB 1219 will extend that sunset date until 2020.

This is the eleventh bill regulating plastic bags since passage of the first plastic bag law in California in 2006.

Should I reuse or litter?

The rap on plastic bags is that they end up lining street gutters, or in the oceans, rivers and lakes, or just flying around neighborhoods on windy days. The bill analysis states that 60-80 percent of all marine debris and 90 percent of floating debris is plastic. But several studies I’ve read say that while plastic shopping bags entering the marine environment represent a threat  to marine life along with other packaging and other littered items, it has not been quantified.

Who litters?

Who throws their garbage into rivers, lakes, oceans or on the street? I don’t know anyone who tosses the bags onto the street. But when I visit my neighborhood park, there are always plastic bags, food containers, wrappers, and plastic bottles discarded on the grass and around seating areas. In many of Sacramento’s low-income neighborhoods, and public schools, trash is strewn about, including plastic bags and bottles.

So who does the littering? Why go after the plastic bag manufacturers instead of the litterers?

My friends, neighbors and I reuse our plastic bags for garbage, changing kitty litter, for doggie-do bags, or a second time at the store. I used to use them as diaper discard bags when my son was a baby. There are numerous reuses for plastic bags, which most people take advantage of.

Donnelly said that he and his wife reuse plastic bags as garbage bags at home. The fact is that most consumers reuse the bags for something.

While numerous studies focus almost entirely on the cost to the consumer, they forget about the cost to the business, which is significant.

Jones was right when he said, “We should ask ourselves, are we really being efficient by forcing grocery stores to recycle plastic bags?”

“I think we ought to allow the free market to finally be free!” Donnelly said. “Grocery stores run on a thin margin, and can’t afford any more regulations.”

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  1. us citizen
    us citizen 21 August, 2012, 17:14

    I love plastic bags. Its not the bags that are escaping and running loose and wild in the neighborhood! Its the slobs that are using them. Sorry but lower class neighborhoods have no PRIDE where they live, so they dont care that they live in a mess.

    Reply this comment
  2. larry 62
    larry 62 21 August, 2012, 17:24

    They can come up with all these rules and regulations for plastic bag disposal but it is to much to ask a voter for a picture I.D. Besides that, I already have a recycle container that is picked up every other week. Why can’t people use them, I do.

    Reply this comment
  3. Bob
    Bob 21 August, 2012, 17:52

    God, I hate DemoNcrats.

    Everything they do makes my life more difficult and expensive.

    And it turns out platic bags are less of a hazard to the environment than their cherished “reusable” bags.

    But really, their primary motivation is not the environment, it’s control.

    They think they know what is best for everyone so they want to mandate as much as possible how we will be allowed to live our lives.

    Reply this comment
  4. Gerald Caskey
    Gerald Caskey 21 August, 2012, 18:05

    Its much ado about nothing.They must not have anything to do up there.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 21 August, 2012, 23:09

    And those who fear control….GPS in your car or dumb phone are huge invasions of privacy you actually…gladly….pay for….dah!!!!

    Do you want the world to know “everything” you do, where you visit in a public domain data base?

    Reply this comment
  6. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 21 August, 2012, 23:34

    ………..meanwhile, the state deficit is $16 billion (That’s $16,000,000,000 for the numerically-inclined). Insert Nero reference here.

    I have but one quibble, Ms Grimes. While it is true that bag-fee laws are being dreamed up by busybody city councils everywhere, with the effect of literally nickle-and-diming us at the checkout, the “cost to business” will eventually be borne by consumers as well. Someone’s gotta pay for that Hydrocarbon Product Recycling Coordinator Level II.

    Essentially we can look forward to paying for bags both directly AND indirectly!

    If we are lucky, cooler heads and legislative laziness will prevail. (Remember the dire predictions in the mid 1990s which suggested that by 2010 the planet would be covered in a sea of discarded compact disk packaging? Somehow we averted that crisis.)

    Reply this comment
  7. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 22 August, 2012, 06:51

    Of course some of the costs will be passed on to consumers. Studies have calculated that it will be approximately $3 – $4 per year. Meanwhile, grocery stores will be required to manage a new recycling program, and doing formal reporting to the state. This takes another employee, and accounting department time, which costs far more than $3-$4 per year.


    Reply this comment
  8. Bob
    Bob 22 August, 2012, 07:23

    And if plastic grocery bags were outlawed it would cost me a lot more than 3 or 4 dollars a year.

    First, I will have to buy a set of re-usable bags that will then need to be washed every few weeks. Or I can pay twenty cents per paper bag (what the city council wants to tax us for paper bags when they outlaw plastic bags). Assuming the later, that would be at least a dollar a week.

    Next, I will need to buy plastic bags for what I use the free grocery bags for.

    I estimate that all this would cost me at least $75 to $100 per year.

    Reply this comment
  9. This sucks
    This sucks 22 August, 2012, 07:55

    Larger chain stores would probably resort to just paying the fine than jump through all those hoops.

    Reply this comment
  10. pj
    pj 22 August, 2012, 08:44

    Why don’t the stores man up and sue?!

    Reply this comment
  11. Kristin
    Kristin 25 August, 2012, 11:49

    Okay. These liberal fools are the reason we got plastic bags in the first place. Because the environmentalist wackos didn’t want us to cut down trees for paper bags, we had to have plastic. Now they get their panties in a twist because plastic isn’t biodegradable. NO DUH. We tried to fight you back then, probably 25 years ago now or longer. Now we’re having the same STUPID fight.

    We need to smack ourselves upside our collective foreheads for letting the commies con us into such idiocy. Will we never learn?

    Reply this comment
  12. James Li
    James Li 25 August, 2012, 18:59

    “c) All bags collected be recycled in a manner consistent with the local jurisdiction’s recycling plan”

    So, if the local recycling center doesn’t take plastic bags (and most don’t), does this mean that “manner consistent” means the stores can just dump them in the trash?

    Some branches of larger stores (e.g., Safeway) already collect bags for recycling. However, given the transportation costs, it appears to be more for public relations purposes than, say, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

    Reply this comment
  13. JoeS
    JoeS 25 August, 2012, 21:28

    LA Times delivers their newspapers in plastic bags. Shouldn’t they pay $.10

    Reply this comment

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