Bill to ban plastic bags in California clears Senate committee

Reusable shopping bags, Cagle, April 19, 2013April 19, 2013

By Josephine Djuhana

The war on plastic bags has returned with a vengeance, as legislators introduce new regulations that dictate what kinds of bags California shoppers are allowed to use when out shopping for groceries.

SB 405, authored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would effectively prohibit stores from providing a single-use carryout plastic bag to customers. According to a press release on Sen. Padilla’s website:

* “Beginning January 1, 2015, grocery stores and pharmacies would be prohibited from making available single-use plastic bags. If paper bags are offered to customers, they would have to include recycled content and customers would have to be charged the actual cost of providing the recycled paper bags.

* “Beginning July 1, 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores would be required to meet the same standard.

* “The bill would not pre-empt local ordinances already in place.”

“SB 405 will help protect our environment by phasing out single-use plastic bags in California,” said Padilla. “Single-use plastic bags fill our landfills, clog inland waterways, litter our coastline, and kill thousands of fish, marine mammals and seabirds.”

Hearing

The hearing for the bill occurred on Wednesday, and SB 405 has since passed the Senate environmental quality committee on a 5-3 vote. The bag ban, however, has been met with some bipartisan opposition, and many members of the business community have come against it.

Cathy Browne, general manager at plastic bag maker Crown Poly Inc., called SB 405 “misguided legislation” that was not fact-based. In a press conference call on Tuesday, she warned that 300 Angelenos would be put out of manufacturing jobs if the bill was made law. “Our employees … work very hard at their jobs, and they shouldn’t lose their jobs just because politicians are listening to environmental rhetoric,” she said.

“Plastic bag bans are simply bad public policy,” said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, during the call. “To date, the debate on plastic bags has been supported by unfounded stats, junk science and myths. The reality is that American made plastic bags are a better choice for the environment and banning them will cause more harm to the environment. If California wants to lead in the fight against global warming, banning plastic bags will have the exact opposite effect.”

More than 72 California cities and counties have adopted ordinances to ban the use of plastic bags, among them a number of beach cities, including Huntington Beach.

“As a conservationist and local surfer in Huntington Beach, I’ve heard from my district that these bag bans are not the appropriate approach,” Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, told me. “While these bans are addressing less than .5 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, we are exposing people to serious health risks and stressing Southern California water conservation efforts. There is a far bigger picture that needs to be considered and not just settle on a single issue when voting on these bans.”

Environmental concerns

Bag bans are largely introduced as a measure to preserve the environment and prevent plastics from clogging inland waterways, filling up landfills and becoming floating marine debris. But there are many devils in the details, and banning plastic bags actually may be more costly to the environment, and result in more waste and energy expenditure.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance made the following findings on plastic bags:

* Plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases than paper or cotton bags.

* Plastic grocery bags require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper bags.

* The production of plastic bags consumes less than 4 percent of the water needed to make paper bags.

* Plastic bags generate 80 percent less waste than paper bags.

* For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags.

* American plastic bags are made from natural gas, not oil. In the U.S., 85 percent of the raw material used to make plastic bags is produced from natural gas.

APBA Chairman Mark Daniels also highlighted the fallacies in using reusable bags. He said the reusable bags are often “made to look like cotton” but are, in actuality, made of nonwoven poly-propylene, which is essentially a plastic. Additionally, many reusable bags cannot be recycled and “are mostly shipped from overseas and are made from foreign oil.”

Health concerns

The science behind reusable bags belies a more insidious impact that plastic bag bans have brought. Not only are reusable bags less energy-efficient to produce and more harmful to the environment, multiple reports have shown that reusable bags spread disease. And Californians need not look further than San Francisco to see the potential health hazards caused by contaminated reusable bags.

Research by Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright showed that reusable bags “contain potentially harmful bacteria, especially coliform bacteria such as E. coli.” In fact, since San Francisco County banned plastic bags in 2007, the researchers found that “both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect” and that, relative to other counties, “deaths in San Francisco increase by 50-100 percent, and ER visits increase by a comparable amount.”

Then, consider a case in Oregon, where a girl on a soccer team got sick and “spent six hours in a chaperone’s bathroom” suffering from “vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps”:

“The soccer team of 13- and 14-year-olds traveled to Seattle for a weekend tournament in October 2010.

“At the tournament, one girl got sick on Saturday and spent six hours in a chaperone’s bathroom. Symptoms of the bug, often called “stomach flu,” include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. The chaperone took the girl back to Oregon.

“On Sunday, team members had lunch in a hotel room, passing around the bag and eating cookies it held. On Monday, six girls got sick.”

A 2011 study did show that washing reusable bags would reduce bacteria by 99.9 percent, but considering that only 3 percent of people actually wash their bags, health problems still abound.

Rise of regulations

Despite mounting concerns on banning plastic bags, California legislators continue on this quest. From foie gras to frisbees, state lawmakers see no area of private life where government does not have a place even in spite of Governor Jerry Brown’s public admonishment that not every human condition is deserving of a new law. We don’t yet have to worry about California regulating Big Gulps like Mayor Bloomberg  did in New York, but if the State Legislature can justify banning plastic bags in the interest of the public good, so too could it justify soda next.

17 comments

Write a comment
  1. PJ
    PJ 19 April, 2013, 11:42

    But they’re not single use! We use them for garbage, dirty cat litter, etc.

    Leave us alone, Sacto. This may be the final straw for me, and I’ll move.

    Reply this comment
  2. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 19 April, 2013, 15:27

    Meanwhile Padilla represents about half the SF Valley…..and looking at the map of District 20, I can tell you it’s the half that is more downscale…..the wealthier suburbs along the 101 and in the northwest quadrant (Chatsworth, Porter Ranch, etc) are NOT included.

    I wonder what the lower and middle income people in his district think about this, considering this is a regressive tax?

    Do they know even who who Padilla is?

    Reply this comment
  3. double l
    double l 19 April, 2013, 16:32

    Our illustrious legislators are so out of touch with reality that they spend most of their time thinking up cockamamy ideas and less time being good stewards of government. It seems like they are in a contest to see who is the most prolific at writing new laws. There are so many laws on the books now that most of us are probable lawbreakers and don’t know it. For every new law proposed, a minimum of three laws shall be removed before the new law is placed in the books.

    Reply this comment
  4. us citizen
    us citizen 19 April, 2013, 17:48

    Time to start hoarding plastic bags along with the light bulbs.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ted
    Ted "Eddy Baby" Steele, Associate Prof. 19 April, 2013, 22:06

    OMG we NEED more plaaaaaaaaaaaaaastic!

    the 1950 republican dull-normal model rolls on….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment
  6. Barb
    Barb 20 April, 2013, 06:53

    This is as bad as the state of Maryland taxing people for rain water! I mean, really, who are these people? Plastic Bags? Next thing they tax will be the air you breath or the sun you soak up!

    What a bunch of power-hungry loons!

    Reply this comment
  7. fred
    fred 21 April, 2013, 09:44

    send some plastic bags to these morons

    Reply this comment
  8. The Africanized Swarm of Ted Steele System
    The Africanized Swarm of Ted Steele System 21 April, 2013, 16:37

    We are doomed without our plastic bags! Doomed I tell ya!

    Reply this comment
  9. Queeg
    Queeg 21 April, 2013, 19:41

    Who cares…do what you want……only whack jobs get tiled up over nothing and CWD has many of them….eh….Carp!

    Reply this comment
  10. Queeg
    Queeg 21 April, 2013, 19:41

    Riled

    Reply this comment
  11. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 22 April, 2013, 12:15

    “….only whack jobs get riled up over nothing…”

    Exactly, Queegster. I agree. You described California’s D-led legislature to a “T”.

    Reply this comment
  12. fish
    fish 22 April, 2013, 17:19

    ….eh….Carp!

    Eh indeed personality number 3. Eh indeed!

    Reply this comment
  13. stolson
    stolson 23 April, 2013, 09:17

    Wow. I buy the plastic garbage bags deoderized with handles–what will we do to take out garbage? paper bags can leak. I didn’t read where they have this covered? I guess the hired help for these overpaid cretins in govt take out their garbage–so the cretins are unaware of the real world.

    Reply this comment
  14. Anthony van Leeuwen
    Anthony van Leeuwen 23 April, 2013, 15:41

    Check out my new blog: http://fighttheplasticbagban.com/

    On my blog I have a downloads menu item. If you click on that there are a number of papers that I have written that can be downloaded.

    One paper titled “Negative Health and Environmental Impacts of Reusable Shopping Bags” deals with the health issues more extensively than you did in the article above. For example, in addition to bacteria, viruses and virus transmission with reusable shopping bags could make other sick. Also, people who have AIDS or a suppressed immune system may be more sensitive to bacteria in reusable bags then people who have normal immune systems. About 20% of the population fit in this category.

    Also, when bag bans are implemented people always complain about all those plastic bags that end up in the landfill. But they have never stopped to calculate all the stuff going into a landfill after a plastic carryout bag ban compared to before. It would surprise you to know that 3 to 4 times the amount of material goes into the landfill post ban than pre-ban. Those plastic carryout bags are sure looking good. see my article titled “Fact Sheet – Landfill Impacts” for the details and the calculations.

    There is much more on my website.

    Reply this comment
  15. David Briggs
    David Briggs 26 April, 2013, 12:42

    If plastic bag manufacturers had taken serious action over the past three decades to reduce the impacts of their product on local streets, parks, and waterways, maybe they wouldn’t see such a backlash. Anyone who stands outside of a grocery store can see how ridiculous the use of throw-away plastic bags has become. Over 60 California (and other states’) communities have passed ordinances restricting distribution of plastic bags in order to lessen costs of litter collections, avoid equipment break-downs at recycling centers, and reduce pollution in waterways. Instead of taking some responsibility for these problems, plastic bag producers will try to convince us that reuseable bags are dangerous to our health. I’d rather see us switch to reuseables. Clothing gets dirty too. That doesn’t mean we should switch to throw-aways.

    Reply this comment
  16. Don Williams
    Don Williams 26 April, 2013, 17:02

    Go to our website: http://www.stopthebagban.com for loads of information on why bag bans are bad and plain wrong.

    Please join us. We are making a push to force this to a vote of the people in some cities. Do you realize that NO city councils have put it to a vote of the people? They just pass it onto their citizens “Thou shall not be allowed to use a plastic bag in this manner because we deem it unworthy. Now go deal with it.”

    The tragedy here is not so much that a few liberal city council members can be brainwashed to believe the anti-bag lies, but that they have the power and willingness to force this onto their citizens. I’ve attended several city council meetings, and every environmental group shows up in droves, they pull in mushy brained high school kids, and anything else they can do. Meanwhile, a small handful of citizens speak up to try to protect their rights. And the whole time the proponents know that the people will not fight back so they steamroll this through.

    In fact, the people speak out EVERY TIME they choose to use a plastic bag.

    Join us. Let’s fight back. At least, let’s put this to a vote of the people in a few cities to let the people vote.

    Reply this comment

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