California ban on plastic bags set to go ahead


California seems destined to ban plastic bags. During a gubernatorial debate on September 4, 2014, the sitting governor of California, Jerry Brown, announced that he “probably will” sign SB 270, a bill approved by the state legislature the previous week that would accomplish this.

Californians are estimated to use 19 billion of the things each year, although there were enough places to ban plastic bags that this had been brought down from 30 billion in 2006. Already, intoned Brown, around 50 cities in the state ban plastic bags and even the California Grocers Association had been converted and was calling for a statewide ban. Brown’s challenger, Neel Kashkari, ranted that there was “no chance would I sign”. He trails Brown in the polls by 34 to 50 percent. Nyah.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose all reported significant drops in the degree of plastic bag litter after their plastic bag bans. As one California resident, Herb Sorenson of Escondido, expostulated, in Europe, people are expected to bring their own bags, and people will adjust as they did to recycling cans and bottles. He is “looking forward to seeing the bags that will come” – on wheels and bearing colours, for instance, and this will change the shopping experience muchly and invoke creativity.

This bill was one of the most passionately debated in the legislative session and would ban plastic bags that are commonly found in grocery stores. These bags will be banned at large grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers that sell food from July 2015 and at smaller institutions such as convenience stores and off licences a year after.

Paper or otherwise reusable bags will be offered for a fee of at least 10 cents. Bishop George McKinney of St Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ labelled this “a massive redistribution of wealth” from poor families. To head off this complaint, funds from the sale of paper bags will be permitted to be used only for alternative bags or education. One retailer responded that poorer people will benefit because bags cost money and savings will hopefully be passed to consumers.

Thicker bags that can be oft reused will be available, although they must be made of some amount of recycled content – a concession to bag manufacturers who harped that a ban would cost jobs, a point often made by opponents of the measure. USD2/GBP1.22/EUR1.54 million will be given to plastic bag companies to allow them to reequip themselves to make reusable bags. Catherine Browne, manager of bagmaker, Crown Poly, called this “a drop in the bucket.”

As environmentalists often complain, plastic bags frequently end their days as litter which can endanger marine life. Plastic bags are a major element of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a mass of plastic trash floating around 1,000 miles off California’s coast that is said to be twice as large as Texas. Other benefits of a ban are that less money will be spent on collecting rubbish and less land will be lost to landfill.

Dan King, the Assistant City Manager of one location to ban plastic bags, Solana Beach, holds that residents rapidly adapted. An email he sent to a newspaper stated that this took a while, but community volunteers spent hours beyond counting at outreach events and educational programmes. At first, there were some complaints, but there had been none for a year.

As Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, swore, “I think this is the beginning of the end of the plastic grocery bag and 10 years from now we’re going to forget that they ever existed.” California has some of the sternest environmental laws in the United States, but if it will ban plastic bags, other states are sure to follow. One model is Colorado, which is being closely observed after allowing recreational usage of Mary Jane. Of a previous attempt to introduce the bill, Bill Magavern, director of the Sierra Club’s California branch, ventilated, “The opposition [is] frenzied because they know a win in California would be replicated elsewhere.”

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

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