On Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with a Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance for the unincorporated areas in Ventura County. The ordinance would ban the free distribution of single-use paper and plastic carryout bags and impose a charge of 10-cents for recyclable paper bags. The item was placed on the agenda by supervisors Steve Bennett and John Zaragoza, both of whom feared that the State of California would not pass a statewide plastic bag ban, a solution both of them preferred. The agenda item would direct county staff to prepare an ordinance based on the model ordinance contained in the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans (BEACON) Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It should be mentioned that Supervisors Bennett and Zaragoza also serve on the BEACON board, a joint powers authority that was responsible for development of the BEACON EIR.
According to the agenda item, “The ordinance would apply to supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience food stores, liquor stores and other retail stores that sell a limited line of food goods including milk, bread, sodas and snack food. The ordinance would not apply to plastic produce bags, nor to plastic bags used in restaurants and cafes for take-out food. Approximately 21 retail stores in the Ventura County unincorporated area would be affected by this ordinance. The greatest concentration of these stores is in the Ojai Valley.”
The stated goal is: “The ordinance is intended to reduce litter and other environmental impacts related to single-use carryout plastic bags and provide an incentive for increased use of reusable bags.”
Reason Foundation, a public policy research organization recently released several studies that raise serious questions about plastic bag ban and the associated environmental and economic impacts. The articles and associated documents can be downloaded by clicking on the article links.
In a study titled “An Evaluation of the Effects of California’s Proposed Plastic Bag Ban” researchers Julian Morris and Lance Christensen look at bag bans implemented by local jurisdictions and the recently introduced bill by State Senator Alex Padilla (SB 270) that would impose a statewide ban. They state the premise of these laws is to benefit the environment and reduce municipal costs; but, that in practice the opposite occurs. They state that available evidence suggests that these laws will do nothing to protect the environment, will waste resources, and cost Californian’s billions of dollars.
In a study titled “How Green Is that Grocery Bag Ban?” researchers Julian Morris and Brian Seasholes assess the environmental and economic effects of grocery bag bans and taxes. The researchers noted that the bag bans have a miniscule impact on litter, does not reduce litter collection costs, does not reduce environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions, more than likely has an adverse health effect from people not washing reusable bags, and that using reusable bags are inconvenient and costly, and that the cost of bag bans disproportionately fall on the poor.
The movement to banbottled water sales in favor of using reusable water bottles filled from the tap is still in its infancy compared to the movement to ban plastic carryout bags and to use reusable shopping bags instead. While only one city has banned the sale of bottled water within city limits, many cities have banned the sale of bottled water on city property including city owned buildings and parks. Some National Parks and some but not all Colleges and Universities have also banned the sale of bottled water in single-use single-serving plastic bottles.
In this article, we will examine why banning the sale of bottled water in single-serving single-use plastic bottles is not a smart decision. Despite the glowing rhetoric of using refillable water bottles filled with tap water, this solution is not all that it is cracked up to be. While a ban on bottled water sales is similar to a ban on plastic carryout bags, the major difference is that water is consumed by mouth, where taste, not to mention the perception of health risks, becomes the discriminating factor in whether refillable water bottles with tap water are accepted by the public. But even if accepted by the public, the question of whether banning the sales of bottled water in single-serving single-use containers is the right solution, remains.
Last December, the Ventura City Council voted 6 to 1 to go ahead and prepare a Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance and an addendum to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) developed by the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) EIR for consideration by the City Council in six months.
On 19 May 2014, this Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance and the EIR addendum was on the city council agenda and failed to pass because of the tie vote by the Ventura City Council.
Mayor Cheryl Heitmann opened discussion of the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance agenda item and turned it over to Ray Olson, Public WorksEnvironmental Sustainability Division Manager for the City of Ventura. Mr. Olson presented a slide show outlining the proposed ordinance developed by city staff. Key features of the ordinance presented in the presentation are as follows: Continue reading →
Most communities that have implemented plastic bag bans have generally followed the same prescription. First, plastic carryout bag are banned at checkout, and a minimum fee of 10-cents is charged for each paper bag issued in order to coerce shoppers into bringing their own reusable bags. In addition, most communities but not all, provide an exemption to the paper bag fee for certain low income groups.
Most communities that have passed plastic bag bans have done so without seriously considering the impact upon on community residents. In particular the costs imposed on residents complying with the bag ban. While a few cities have calculated the cost of reusable bags for a typical family, they have largely ignored the value of personal time required for residents to handle reusable bags (such as the effort to put bags into the car, wash bags on a regular basis, dry bags, fold bags, etc.) and the increased cost of water and energy. As a result such estimates are flawed and incomplete.
Cost of Plastic Bag Alternatives
In an article titled “Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly To Consumers” the cost of different bag alternatives is estimated and discussed. This analysis includes bag alternatives such as store supplied plastic bags, store supplied paper bags. Shopper supplied plastic bags, and shopper supplied reusable bags. Furthermore, the analysis includes not only the out-of-pocket costs for bags and also the value of one’s time calculated at $12 per hour required to manage shopper supplied bag options. Continue reading →
What is the difference between “real” and “phony” environmentalism? A real environmentalist is one who carefully evaluates the impact of environmental actions and considers all of the facts including primary and secondary impacts. In addition, a real environmentalist is willing to consider alternative environmental actions or even to modify the proposed environmental action in order to eliminate or compensate for unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, on the other hand, embraces emotional “feel-good” ideas that sound wonderful but produce unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, when confronted with these consequences, is often dogmatic and unwilling to change proposed environmental actions or even to consider alternatives designed to minimize the unintended and damaging consequences, because they are driven by “feel-good” emotions rather than a logical thought process.
The real environmentalist embraces “real science” and the phony embraces “pseudo-science” and “feel-good” ideas that sound good but are not based upon real science. In fact, entire books have been written on the phenomenon of phony environmentalism, such as “Eco-Fads” by Todd Myers and “Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and The Rise of The Anti-Scientific Left” by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell. Unfortunately, phony environmentalism has a track record that ignores negative environmental impacts, wastes resources, and imposes dubious environmental programs on the public through law. This dubious track record has destroyed the public’s perception of genuine efforts to improve the environment.
Arguments to support plastic carryout bag bans are weak, generalized, emotional, and irrational. These arguments can be better described as nothing more than lies, myths, half-truths, distortions, and embellishments. It doesn’t take a lot of time for a person with an open mind and some skills in sorting fact from fiction to examine the arguments and come to the conclusion that a ban on plastic grocery bags is unsound. But it takes a commitment to objective truth to sort fact from fiction.
Develop a Skeptical Show Me Attitude
So how do you immunize yourself from the misinformation that bag ban proponents attempt to foist on you and keep yourself from being hoodwinked and having the wool pulled over your eyes? You have heard the saying “I’m from Missouri, show me!” This little saying describes the kind of skeptical attitude that you should develop, that you do not take things on faith, that you cannot be easily fooled or conned, you have to see the evidence and the proof. Developing a skeptical “show me” attitude, learning to ask pointed questions, will make you less susceptible to misinformation and false propaganda.
Familiarize Yourself with the Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations
Start by reading and familiarizing yourself with the contents of the article titled “The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Bag Ban Proponents” (van Leeuwen & Williams, The Lies, Myths, Half-Truths, and Exaggerations of Ban Ban Proponents, 2013). This article will provide you with a basic understanding of many of the myths and misinformation typically used by most bag banners.
The plastic bag ban was again placed on the Huntington Beach City Council Agenda by Council member Dave Sullivan. The agenda item if approved by the City Council would direct the City Attorney to prepare a ballot measure which would repeal Chapter 5.95 USE OF PLASTIC CARRYOUT BAGS AND RECYCLABLE PAPER of the Huntington Beach Municipal Code (i.e. the Reusable Bag Ordinance) for the November 4, 2014, General Municipal Election ballot to be submitted to the qualified electors of the City of Huntington Beach, California.
A total of 54 speakers chose to speak. Of the 54 speakers, 27 were in favor of putting the issue to repeal the plastic bag ban on the ballot, 20 opposed putting the issue on the ballot, and 7 speakers spoke on a variety of other issues.
Some key issues brought up by speakers who spoke at the City Council Meeting:
The plastic bag ban is a divisive issue in the community and a source of anger.
The Paper Bag Fee is a tax and a bribe to retailers/grocers for their cooperation or silence.
The city took away the right of individuals and businesses to make their own choices of whether or not to use reusable bags.
Results in higher consumer water consumption to wash and sanitize reusable bags.
Many people now shop in surrounding communities resulting in a loss of sales tax.
Plastic bag ban is a feel good policy and government has gone too far.
Put the Repeal of the Plastic Bag Ban on the Ballot and let the people decide.
Bag usage surveys conducted to date overwhelmingly show that shoppers have rejected using reusable bags and preferred to use paper bags or NO bags at all by a ratio of about two-to-one. While the stated intent of most plastic bag ban ordinances is to shift the majority of shoppers into using reusable bags, and reinforced by imposing minimum fees on paper bags in order to coerce shoppers into using reusable bags, the exact opposite has happened instead. This is not surprising since using reusable bags is not without its own set of problems.
Voters in Issaquah, Washington narrowly rejected Proposition 1, a ballot measure that if passed would have repealed the plastic bag ban and bag charge. The measure lost by a narrow margin of only 350 votes.
The King County Department of Elections reported that out of 19,302 registered voters in the City of Issaquah, a total of 7,590 ballots (or 39.32%) were returned by mail and counted. A total of 3,595 “Yes” votes (47.68%) and 3,945 ‘No” votes (52.32%) were cast. The “No” vote keeps the bag ban ordinance previously passed by the City Council in place.
Proposition 1 was placed on the ballot by a grass roots group called Save Our Choice. Save our Choice was founded in December 2011 to first oppose the Seattle bag ban and bag tax and is a band of grassroots volunteers dedicated to fiercely defending consumer and merchant choice. Save Our Choice collected more than 15% of all Issaquah voters to qualify the measure for the ballot in October 2013. (Clark, 2014) Subsequently, Mr. Craig Keller, cofounder of Save Our Choice, successfully challenged the ballot title and description in court and won several much needed wording improvements to the ballot title and description.
According to Mr. Craig Keller, co-founder of Save Our Choice, Proposition 1 would have easily won had more grass roots volunteers turned up to help with the effort. Mr. Keller stated that few volunteers came out to help during freezing cold and windy weather prior to the election to stand outside stores handing out “message” bags and “Free Issy” decals before the election. Each “message” bag was a plastic bag with a message to vote “Yes” on Proposition 1 as shown in the illustration.