California Today: Should We Ban Plastic Bags?
The New York Times Mike McPhate SEPT. 23, 2016
Californians face an up-or-down vote on banning single-use plastic bags at groceries. Credit Kimberly White/Getty Images
The plastic bag wars, after years in the trenches, are now coming to a head.
Voters will get the final word in November on making California the first state to prohibit the bags at grocery checkout lines.
Two ballot measures, both industry sponsored, deal with a state law passed in 2014 that barred grocers and other retailers from handing out single-use plastic bags and required them to charge 10 cents for a paper alternative.
But the law was delayed before it could be enacted in 2015, when a group of bag manufacturers gathered signatures to put Proposition 67, an up-or-down referendum, on the ballot. “Yes” keeps the ban. “No” kills it.
Ban supporters say the billions of plastic bags used by Californians are a menace, clogging sewers and polluting habitats. They are the fourth most common item collected during the California Coastal Commission’s annual cleanup events.
Still, opponents of the ban argue that plastic bags account for less than 1 percent of the total trash stream and can be recycled, even if, in practice, only a fraction are.
Among their other arguments: the paper bag fee hurts the poor, and jobs would be killed by a sudden evaporation of bag sales.
“Not only is it affecting jobs, it’s over junk science,” said Phil Rozenski, policy chairman for the American Progressive Bag Alliance.
Then there’s Proposition 65, which would divert revenue from the 10-cent bag fees to an environmental fund.
You might think many green groups would like that. They don’t.
Critics say it is a maneuver intended to discredit the statewide ban by portraying the fees as a windfall for supermarkets. According to the California Grocers Association, which supports the ban, the fee just covers costs.
Morocco banned the bag on July 1 of this year
The outcome in November will depend in part on shifting public attitudes. At least 150 California communities have taken steps to limit plastic bags since 2007, when San Francisco kicked things off.
Many shoppers, who may have bristled at first, have grown used to the idea of reusable bags, advocates say.
“People are realizing we never needed so many bags in the first place,” said Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste.
Birds, not bags, in the trees...