The City of San Jose, to their credit, is one of the few cities that conducted litter surveys both before and after the city’s bag ban. Results showing the percentage reduction of single-use plastic carryout bags (i.e. plastic grocery bags) as a component of litter have been cited by the city as proof that the city’s bag ban is effective. Likewise, environmental groups nationwide have touted these same results as a justification for promoting new bag bans and opposing repeal efforts. Unfortunately, the City of San Jose did not conduct litter surveys in a controlled and scientific manner, did not correctly analyze survey data, and did not put survey results into proper perspective. As a result, the data collected is unreliable for computing a meaningful figure of merit, such as the percent reduction in plastic carryout bag litter resulting from the city’s plastic bag ban.
Yet, despite these shortcomings, the litter surveys did reveal several surprising facts that have escaped the notice of city officials, the media, and those in other cities who cite San Jose’s claims:
That only half of ALL plastic bag litter found in sampled areas on city streets and creeks consists of single-use plastic carryout bags; hence, a bag ban would at most eliminate only about half of all plastic bag litter.
That only about 10% of litter in creeks consists of single-use plastic carryout bags; hence, a bag ban affects at most 10% of ALL litter in creeks, leaving the remaining 90% unresolved. Therefore, all of the cost and cleanup efforts still need to be implemented since this will not meet the 100% reduction goal required under the federal Clean Water Act.
That the number of single-use plastic carryout bags found during all of the litter surveys in 2009, 2010, and 2011 (prior to the bag ban) average only 1,000 bags per year, or less than 1 for every 1,000 people, or the equivalent of what two (2) people out of a population of more than 1 million would use annually!
The use of unreliable and questionable survey data to project large percentage reductions of an insignificant number of littered plastic grocery bags combined with a complete lack of evidence of any cost savings to the city or to the people show that the bag ban was never justified from the beginning, and that the ongoing cost burden to San Jose families is likewise unjustified.
On February 24, 2015 the California Secretary of State, Mr. Alex Padilla, certified that the referendum to Overturn California’s Statewide Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags qualified for the 2016 ballot and will be decided by voters. The irony of ironies is that the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who as legislator had championed the plastic bag ban, had to certify that sufficient valid signature were collected by referendum proponents to put it on the ballot! A total of 809,810 signatures were submitted by referendum proponents and county registrars projected that 598,684 signatures were valid based upon random sampling. A total of 504,760 valid signatures were needed with 93,924 signatures over and above the quantity needed.
Although, more than 100 jurisdictions within the state have implemented bag bans, they were implemented largely by nanny-state politicians, who thought it more important to be politically correct and be seen as “green” than doing the right thing. In fact, in every jurisdiction that has a plastic bag ban in the state of California, the bag ban was implemented by local politicians, rather than by a vote of the people. The referendum will finally give ordinary citizens the chance to vote up or down on the statewide bag ban.
It should be stated that plastic grocery bag litter is an insignificant litter problem that can easily be handled by more traditional litter abatement methods than by imposing draconian bag bans. In the article “San Jose Discovers Bag Ban Does Not Solve Litter Problems” we show that San Jose’s bag ban was useless in terms of reducing overall litter and in an upcoming article, we will show that San Jose’s own litter surveys show that plastic grocery bag litter to be an insignificant problem.
Ten months after the City of San Jose implemented their Plastic Bag Ban, Kerrie Romanov, Director of Environmental Services for the City of San Jose, issued a memorandum dated November 20, 2012 to the San Jose City Council claiming success of the “Plastic Bag Ban” (San Jose ordinance #28877). Romanov claimed this success based upon a 59% reduction in plastic bag litter on city streets and neighborhoods, a 60% reduction in plastic bag litter in creeks, and an 89% reduction of plastic bag litter in storm drains.
On 20 January, 2015 the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 to 1 to start the process of repealing the city’s plastic bag ban. Councilmembers Mike Posey, Erik Peterson, Billy O’Connell, Barbara Delgleize, Dave Sullivan, and Jim Katapodis voted to repeal the ordinance and Mayor Jill Hardy voted to keep the ban.
The agenda item that was voted on instructs the city manager to begin the repeal process including preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which is estimated to cost $5,000. The EIR is expected to take between two and three months to complete, and when completed, the issue will go back to council for final approval.
As previously noted in the blog article titled “San Jose Painfully Learns Litter Problems Were Not Solved by Plastic Bag Ban!”, the City of San Jose is painfully discovering that it’s much touted plastic bag ban that cost residents millions of dollars did virtually nothing to solve the city’s serious litter problems. According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), one of the stated reasons for implementing the bag ban was to reduce litter on city streets, in creeks, and in storm drains. (City of San Jose, 2010) Two years after the plastic bag ban was implemented, that there has been no reduction of overall litter. Furthermore, the case is made, using San Jose’s own litter surveys and claims of bag ban success, to show that the plastic bag ban was never needed but was a very expensive mistake.
Although the exact number of single-use paper and plastic carryout bags used in the city is unknown, the city estimates that 68 million paper bags and 500 million single-use plastic carryout bags are used every year. In fact the Draft EIR identifies that 1.4 plastic bags are used per day by every living person in the City of San Jose which equates to 511 plastic carryout bags per person per year. (City of San Jose, 2010) This means that a family of four would use 4 x 511 or 2044 plastic bags per year.
In a November 20, 2012 memorandum to the San Jose City Council from Kerrie Romanov (Director of Environmental Services for San Jose) the following statement was made:
Statewide and local bag bans were a SCAM from the very beginning. These measures can best be characterized by deceitful scheming, repeated lies and distortions, backroom deals, a supportive one-sided media, and enough politicians succumbing to political correctness to force this law and the resulting shopping behavior changes on the people of California.
Not only were Californians deprived of more reasonable and acceptable solutions to address plastic bag litter by the shenanigans of bag banners but will also pay an additional $1 Billion per year just to take their groceries home. And after spending all that money, litter will hardly be affected at all! More than 99.6% of litter will still be there waiting to be picked up.
These measures were passed by progressive politicians, and even though the measures affect every one of their constituents, both financially and through the expenditure of personal time, none were allowed to vote for it. In fact, to date, no member of the public has ever been given the chance to vote for or against these measures!
The paper “The California Plastic Bag Ban Scam” examines and exposes the methods used by the bag banners to push bag bans at the local and state level, and how they were able to push through a law that is not only unpopular, but also sets new dangerous precedents in governmental power and law.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) announced that it has turned in more than 800,000 signatures to county registrars. The APBA needed only about 505,000 signatures to qualify the referendum. If county registrars certify that the required numbers of signatures were collected, the law would be put on hold until the 2016 general election where voters will have the opportunity to vote on the issue. (Associated Press, 2014)
Some people welcome a ban on plastic carryout bags, others are opposed, and others are not sure. This article is intended for those of you who are in between and unsure whether you should oppose or support a bag ban.
With as much that goes on in the world today that vies for our attention, getting excited about plastic grocery bags (i.e. plastic carryout bags) is certainly not high on the totem pole. We live in a topsy–turvy world where things that were once banned are allowed (e.g. marijuana) and things that were once allowed are now banned (e.g. plastic carryout bags).
So how can we approach this subject in a fair and impartial manner? How can we determine if we should support or oppose a bag ban? We know that when the legislature or a local jurisdiction passes a law they are trying to solve a perceived problem. So the answer to the question is to understand the nature of the problem and how the proposed solution or law intends to solve that problem and most important what alternative solutions were considered. The more clearly we understand this the better we can see how our personal freedom and liberties are affected and whether that intrusion is warranted and justified.
The purpose of this paper is not to provide a detailed explanation of the problem and the solution (e.g. plastic bag ban) but a philosophical argument about why or why not bag bans should be opposed.
Efforts to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags began in California with a voluntary program that encouraged shoppers to use reusable bags for bringing their groceries home. While a few shoppers complied with the program, most shoppers did not and continued to use plastic grocery bags. Bag Banners were not satisfied with these results and blamed shoppers for being “resistant to change”. They were not happy that shoppers were able to make their own choice about what kind of shopping bag to use.
Bag Banners, instead of recognizing that shoppers rejected using reusable bags and that a different solution was required, doubled down and embarked on mandatory programs to ban plastic bags. These mandatory programs not only banned plastic bags but a placed a fee on paper bags in order to coerce shoppers to use reusable bags.
Bag Banners began to push the state legislature and local jurisdictions to ban plastic carryout bags and impose a mandatory minimum fee on paper bags. Many local jurisdictions passed mandatory plastic bag ban programs most of which banned plastic bags from grocery and convenience stores only; thereby only reducing the quantity of plastic carryout bags in circulation. Eventually, in 2014 a statewide mandatory program was passed and signed into law. Continue reading A Case for the Repeal of Bag Bans→
The City of San Jose is painfully discovering that the much touted bag ban that cost residents millions of dollars in out of pocket costs and personal time did nothing to solve litter problems. An environmental group, San Francisco Baykeeper, has notified the city that intends to file a lawsuit because of the city’s failure to prevent trash and sewage from flowing into the Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek through its storm drain system and into San Francisco Bay. The lawsuit is being filed because of violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. (Rogers, 2014)
“San Jose is a hot spot for trash pollution and bacterial pollution into the bay,” said attorney Sejal Choksi, program director for Baykeeper. “Its leaders have not taken care of the problem or prioritized the issue. We’ve seen the trash, we’ve measured the bacterial pollution. What they are doing is not sufficient.” (Rogers, 2014)
In response, Kerrie Romanow, director of environmental services for the City of San Jose, stated that nine catch basins have already been installed in the storm drain system to trap trash and plans are to install 20 more in the next three years. She also stated that the city has increased street sweeping and banned plastic bags. (Rogers, 2014)