Plastic bag ban rises from the dead

Jan. 23, 2013

By Katy Grimes

The plastic bag horror movie that wouldn’t go away… It’s baaaacccckkkkk!


Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, announced Monday that he is bringing back from the dead a proposal banning all plastic bags.

Assembly Bill 158 would ban “single-use” plastic grocery bags.

“To continue the use of these bags would ignore the convincing body of global evidence proving that these bags are having a drastic effect on marine ecocultures,” Levine said in a statement. “Additionally, there are several easily available and affordable alternatives to plastic bags. We need to ban these bags once and for all.”

Plastic bags were offered as an environmental alternative years ago in order to save the trees from paper grocery bags. “Single-use” is a misnomer; I have a specially-made trash container created to hold the plastic grocery bags.

“Globally, it is estimated that we use more than 500 billion plastic bags annually,” Levine’s website reported. “Plastic bags account for roughly 10 percent of all the debris that washes up on our beaches. Hundreds of thousands of marine fish and mammals are killed annually as plastic bags float out to sea.”

But, with shoppers being forced to purchase grocery bags, hundreds of dollars will be added each year to already high grocery budgets. Costing upwards of $3.00 per bag, reusable bags may have been tres` chic in recent years, but come with environmental issues as well.

A study conducted by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) in Canada found that the eco-friendly shopping bags are Petri dishes of disgusting bacteria. In a November 2008 study in Toronto, using swab testing of reusable shopping bags, found that there was considerable bacterial build-up, mold and yeast on the reusable bags, as well as significant levels of fecal bacteria. The reusable bags are used for gym clothes, and even as diaper bags, concluding that the millions of reported cases each year of food poisoning could be from contaminated eco-friendly grocery bags.

The American Chemistry Council previously estimated that the bill would amount to a $1 billion tax and threaten 500 jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing business.

Dr. Amy Kaleita, with the Pacific Research Institute (CalWatchdog’s parent organization), explained: “Biodegradable plastic bags cost between eight and 10 cents, compared to a penny for the standard plastic bag.  Supporters of the (San Francisco) ban say the price of biodegradable plastic bags would drop if more municipalities required them, but this may not be the case. The biodegradable bags are made from soy and especially corn.  Given the increasing demands for corn from the ethanol industry, the cost of producing these biodegradable bags is likely to increase by a significant amount.”

Plastic bag manufacturers argue that the problem is not the manufacturing of plastic bags, it’s a litter problem caused by careless people. Enforcing litter laws would go much further to helping the environment.

Bag bill facts:

Beginning in 2015, Levine’s bill would require grocery stores to end use of plastic bags. But it gets even stranger, and this is the real intent of the bill.

* From January 1, 2015 to July 30, 2016, with more than $2 million in annual sales, or with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space, and/or any grocery store or small market that sells alcohol, would be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.

* Stores subject to this bill would be required to make reusable grocery bags available for sale.

* Starting in July 2016, grocery retailers could only provide reusable plastic bags, which many stores already offer at a fee. The new proposal, Assembly Bill 158, also leaves room for stores to provide recycled paper bags at a charge.

However, AB 298 requires grocery stores to provide a free paper bag or reusable bag to shoppers with low-income  – particularly those low-income shoppers enrolled in the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

This bill is just another retread of several previous attempts to ban plastic bags. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is possible without another law. Does this bill prove that the Legislature has nothing better to do, or is this the best they can come up with? Driven by special interest and perhaps an abundance of time, Levine’s bill will impose another unnecessary tax on the consumer and once again penalize private industry.


Write a comment
  1. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 23 January, 2013, 09:36

    “Does this bill prove that the Legislature has nothing better to do……..”

    More I think about it, it’s a perfect bill. Of very minor consequence….yet will inevitably be picked up by every news outlet, because it affects everyone on almost a daily basis. And Levine gets to show off his enviro chops, and boast about making good on his pledge to “fight for the environment!”

    And of course the low income exemption, “fighting for the “working poor families.”

    Standard fare. A smorgasbord of progressive silliness.

    Reply this comment
  2. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 23 January, 2013, 10:08

    Spotted over weekend….sign that “we accept SNAP” at donut shop. What a state? Perhaps more appropriately, WTF?

    Reply this comment
  3. Val
    Val 23 January, 2013, 11:40

    I can say its getting irritating in the bay area already. I know at the stores I go to its “If you want bags we need to charge you $0.10 per paper bag (oh don’t pay attention to their small size either or the fact you can fit only a limited small number of items in the bags)”

    Yes I want the bags, stop asking if I really REALLY REALLY need them.

    Reply this comment
  4. Bubba
    Bubba 23 January, 2013, 12:42

    Fine ban them but don’t complain about my dogs poop left on your front lawn because some “Feel Good” ban on plastic bags!9

    Reply this comment
  5. Bubba
    Bubba 23 January, 2013, 20:04

    Jimmy is absolutely right; our poor legislators have way too much time on their hands. We should put a ballot measure out that only allows them to meet for 3 days every 5 years and that these meetings are held in tent with no fans or A/C in the middle of the Sacrmemto Delta in July!

    Reply this comment
  6. loufca
    loufca 24 January, 2013, 07:25

    A part time legislature makes more sense. Less legislating, less foolishness and less politicing.

    Reply this comment

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