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SB270 – The California Bag Ban: Part I

by Taylor S. McLoughlin

Senate Bill 270 (SB270), signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2014, is slated to go into effect July 1, 2015. The landmark legislation would require consumers to use reusable bags at grocery stores or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

However, SB270’s likelihood of going into full effect July 1 of 2015 is looking less and less likely. Following the September signing of the bill, a plastic bag manufacturing trade group called American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) immediately began a campaign to garner enough support to halt the bill.

According to Jeremy White of The Sacramento Bee, the APBA had a 90-day window of opportunity to obtain the 504,760 required signatures to block SB270. How many signatures did the association get? By December the APBA amassed a whopping 800,000+ signatures (pending confirmation of validity), more than enough to push SB270 to the November 2016 ballot where Californian voters will weigh in.

According to The Associated Press, the APBA spent an estimated $3.1 million on the effort, with over 98 percent of the funds coming from out of state sources. While that may seem like a lot of money, and it is, it pales in comparison to how much money the industry was projected to lose if the statewide ban is enacted. Reid Wilson of The Washington Post estimates the industry could lose out on $100 million from the prohibition on plastic bags.

Despite strong opposition to SB270, over 100 cities and counties in California have implemented their own city ordinances that act identically to the bill. Judging by the numerous cities and counties already enforcing some sort of ban on single-use plastic bags it’s clear that Californians (at least those that didn’t sign the petition) are forward thinking and generally concerned with environmental politics.

Some may wonder then why it matters if SB270 succeeds or not, since many cities already have bans in place. In Part II I will dig deeper into the various consequences, both positive and negative, of the bill.

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