California first state to ban single-use plastic bags
There's no doubt that single-use plastic bags are an eyesore. They blow all over our streets and parks, beaches and roads. They can clog sewers and intake vents at water treatment facilities. They don't degrade for hundreds of years.
But they are also one of the most useful products we keep around the house. There are dozens if not hundreds of uses for these bags - everything from being a receptacle for dog poop to lining waste baskets.
Efforts to recycle the bags have met with utter failure. More than 88% of single use plastic bags never make it to the recycling center.
Hundreds of communities across the country have already banned them. Now, California has become the first in the nation to make a ban state wide.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) said his bill just makes statewide what more than 120 cities and counties in California have already done.
“We have seen a groundswell of action in this direction at the local level,” Padilla told colleagues. “But this is a statewide problem meriting a statewide solution.”
The ban would kick in for grocery stores and pharmacies on July 1, 2015, and would extend to convenience and liquor stores a year later. The 100 cities and counties that already have bans would be grandfathered in.
The bill was opposed by Republicans, including Ted Gaines of Rocklin. "I'm quite frankly offended by having the state dictate what we need and don’t need in our lives," he told his colleagues.
The measure was opposed by a group of bag-makers calling themselves the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which warned the legislation would hurt the economy while enriching grocery stores that can charge customers for paper and reusable bags.
Paul Bauer, a lobbyist for the group, said the bill will eliminate 2,000 jobs and replace one plastic bag with another. The current bags are not all wasted, he said.
“People put these to use all over their house doing a variety of different things,” Bauer told lawmakers at a hearing on the bill Friday.
Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) said the idea of the state training consumers on which products to use “absolutely is not the American way.”
With one-third of California under plastic-bag bans adopted at the local level, the evidence is that the bans are not hurting the economy, according to Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.
“We now have years of data from cities and counties throughout California to show that this policy is not just working to reduce plastic-bag litter and waste and pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s saving consumers money and there has not been a loss of jobs,” Murray told lawmakers Friday.
The legislation would also provide $2 million in competitive loans to bag-makers to transition into making reusable bags.
We have a massive waste disposal problem in America and we are not confronting it. Landfills are filling up - New York city trucks its garbage to landfills as far away as Ohio. We produce 220 million tons of garbage as a nation every year and we are rapidly running out of places to put it.
A ban on single-use plastic bags may be considered nanny-statism by some, but the reality is that we have given government the responsibility for waste disposal. Banning single use plastic bags may be an inconvenience - and an expense, as grocery stores rake in the money selling paper and reusable plastic - but it is also sound public policy.
As innocuous as plastic bags might be, banning them represents a small commitment to addressing our overall waste management problems. Not all ideas and proposals from environmentalists are bad. This one hits the mark.