Uh oh, Cali didn’t actually ban the bag…
At the end of November, we reported that California had taken the bold step of banning plastic carrier bags. That was due to begin on July 1st, but unfortunately, due to some environmentally unfriendly campaigners, the ban has been suspended until a 2016 vote.
It’s quite a unique way of deciding whether to ban the bag or not, but those living in California who qualify to vote in state elections will have the option to vote for or against the ban in 2016. Remarkably, 37% of Californians already live in an area or district that is affected by a plastic bag ban, so it’s not as if the idea to eradicate them is new here…
Those environmentally unfriendly campaigners we mentioned earlier? That’s actually the polymer bag industry itself. They launched a counter-charge as soon as the ban was announced, and filled a petition with 500,000 signatures, qualifying it for a referendum.
American Progressive Bag Alliance (that’s a real thing) executive director Lee Califf said: “California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs, and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative.”
“It was a back room 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.”
He may actually have a point. When the polymer bag ban was introduced in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, it was noted that the money raised by charges for alternative bags would go to charities or environmental causes. Of course, he sounds a bit like a conspiracist, trying to drum up paranoid support for his campaign, which surprisingly worked.
Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste was quick to comment, stating “It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98% of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits.”
On November 1st, 2014, the University of Southern California performed a poll, asking 1,537 voters if they would support the ban if it was introduced. 59% of voters said they would support the ban, with 34% saying they wouldn’t. 49% of those saying yes said that they felt strongly about upholding the law.
In a separate poll asking what concerns people had with the law, only 18% said that they were convinced the law would cost the state jobs. The largest group (43%) issue suggested that the law was just ‘more government regulation and overreach’, in a sense, unnecessary meddling.
28% of those already in a community with a bag ban said they would not support it, and 42% of those not in a community with a bag ban said they would not support it. It is hard to tell people that what they are doing is not the right way and expect them to change; it is against human nature to do so.
What will happen now?
Right now, not much will happen. We will have to wait until the vote goes through, with the law likely being successfully passed through, despite the hold up.
For those worried that the bill will have a negative environmental effect, consider that in area of California where plastic bags have been banned, reusable bags became nine times more popular, paper bags rose from 3% to 16% and most incredibly the percentage of people who didn’t need to take a bag rose from 17% to 39%. Because the bags are free and cheap, they are used subconsciously. In San Jose, after banning the bag, they found the number of bags in storm drains, creeks and streets went down 89%, 60% and 59% respectively.