Recently, a new bill that would ban plastic grocery bags in California passed a legislative committee. Now, lobbyists are banding together to fight the ban that would put plastic bag manufacturers out of business and cost jobs. Supporters of the bill argue that "a statewide bag ban is needed to wipe out a particularly noxious form of litter that kills marine life in the Pacific Ocean and costs Californians $25 million a year to collect and bury." (1)
First Ban of Its Kind
If California's plastic bag ban becomes law, it will become the first measure of its kind in the US. While some cities in California and Hawaii have banned plastic bags, the measure has not yet been successful at the state level. While environmentalists have pushed hard for the bill, there are many critics that believe the step is over-reaching. Since plastic bags are cheaper than grocery store bags, the move will be costly for supermarkets throughout the state. Both in-state and out-of-state manufacturers are now lobbying strongly against this bill that companies say will lead to job loss. The Grocers' Association, however, supports the ban. According to the association, the ban will eliminate local restrictions they now face.
Financial Support for Plastic Bag Manufacturers
The California bag ban will provide some funding for bag companies to make multiple-use plastic bags that customers must pay for instead of the thin plastic bags they currently produce. According to reports, California currently uses more than 10 billion plastic bags each year. Lobbyists for the bag makers state that the ban will effectively lead to tremendous job loss and hurt these companies substantially.
A Nation of Plastic Bag Users
Although many grocers in California and the rest of the nation also hand out paper bags to customers who prefer them, many people do choose plastic bags because they can be used for other purposes. Many people reuse the bags for packing lunches, lining small trash cans, removing dog waste, and even as packing material for shipping. California suggests that the ban will finally push citizens into using reusable bags.
The problem with plastic bags is that they contribute to an already big waste problem for the nation. "In 2011, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash." (2) The US has long had a waste problem. Solid waste endangers the environment. Cheap plastic grocery store plastic bags are part of the problem. Their proper disposal costs the state millions; however, many of these bags are not disposed of properly and this leads to more toxicity for the environment.
Californians can help combat the problem by embracing reusable bags and by disposing of their own waste properly. After all, plastic bags are not the only environmental culprits. Be sure that other harmful items do not wind up in landfills by ensuring that they are taken to facilities that properly dispose of toxic trash like electronics and chemicals.
1. Contra Costa Times, "Epic environmental battle: Plastic bag ban opponents up the ante in Sacramento," http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_26375556/epic-environmental-battle-plastic-bag-ban-opponents-up
2. Fast Haul, “Wasted in America” http://www.fasthaul.com/ecoblog/2013/10/31/wasted-in-america-infographic/