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SB 270 - Plastic Bag Ban Postponed: Part II

A trade group has garnered enough support to postpone California’s plastic bag ban, Senate Bill 270. The American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), which is comprised of American plastic bag manufacturers and related companies, successfully blocked the bill with over 800,000 signatures. The landmark plastic bag legislation will now be on the November 2016 ballot.

Opponents of the bag ban legislation expressed their support after it was announced that the APBA received enough signatures. According to John Kabateck, California Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), SB 270 is a “multi-million dollar tax” on small businesses and shoppers in California and that voters should be “thrilled to have the opportunity to reverse it.”

Lee Califf, Executive Director of the APBA is quoted in a recent press release as saying SB 270 “was never a bill about the environment. It was a backroom deal between the California Grocers Association and their union friends to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees – all under the guise of environmentalism.”

To be clear, APBA is solely concerned with the livelihood of the plastic bag industry, not the environment. To deny that plastic bags have an adverse effect on ecosystems is denying fact and to posit consumers should rejoice in having the opportunity to repeal legislation aimed at limiting adverse ecological impacts of commerce is disingenuous.

The Senate Rules Committee published an analysis of the legislation, presenting in clear terms the bill’s implications. Below are the primary points of contention the APBA argues are bad for consumers as well as the environment:

  • [SB 270] Prohibits stores from making single-use carryout bags available at the point of sale.

  • Authorizes a store to make available reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag at the point of sale and charge no less than $0.10 to a consumer.

  • Requires all monies collected by stores pursuant to SB 270 to be used for costs associated with compliance; costs of providing recycled paper bags or reusable grocery bags and educational materials or campaigns.

According to the Senate Rules Committee’s analysis, plastic bags and film account for about two percent of the waste stream with California taxpayers spending about $25 million disposing of the 14 billion bags used annually. So, while the two percent makeup of waste seems miniscule, plastic as a whole represents 60 to 80 percent of all marine debris and 90 percent of all floating debris. Plastic bags contribute greatly to the plastic debris that proliferates in oceanic ecosystems and ultimately ends up in the food chain.

The story of SB 270 is not unique; it is one of landmark environmental legislation being halted by special interest groups in a last ditch effort to avoid being phased out of existence. The APBA’s tactics of disseminating inaccurate information to sway public opinion is reactionary to this threat and although opposition to the bill argues it will kill jobs, cost taxpayers immensely and has no environmental merits, these claims are not based in reality. Public awareness of environmental issues has heightened in the era of social media and only an informed public will determine the fate of the plastic bag.

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