Oceanside City Council Rejects Plastic Bag Ban

A view of the Civic Center in Oceanside, California
A view of the Civic Center in Oceanside, California – by Visitor7 (Own Work) – Wikimedia Commons

On October 21, 2015, the Oceanside City Council voted 3-2 against moving ahead with a proposed plastic bag ban. Councilmen Jack Feller and Jerry Kern and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed the agenda item and Mayor Jim Wood and Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery voted in favor. (Sifuentes, Council trashes plastic bag ban proposal, 2015)

The agenda item, if it had passed, would have directed city staff and the Utilities Commission to prepare a Single-Use Carryout Bag ordinance from the sample Single-Use Carryout Bag ordinance contained in Appendix Q of the Oceanside Zero Waste Strategic Resource Management Plan, seek public input, and submit a proposed ordinance with recommendations to the council.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery put the proposed bag ban ordinance on the agenda, citing that plastic carryout bags are polluting local waterways and beaches. (Sifuentes, 2015)

Councilman Jerry Kern said he opposed the proposed ordinance and preferred to wait until after the results of the 2016 referendum on the statewide plastic bag ban are known. (Sifuentes, 2015)

The sample ordinance in Appendix Q was derived from the County of Los Angeles Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance and needs to be updated. For example, the proposed ordinance contains language that requires all reusable bags to be “machine washable.” (Kreuger, 2015) While some reusable bags are machine washable, many are not and must be hand washed.

As currently written the sample ordinance would regulate the use of plastic carryout bags and recyclable paper carryout bags and promote the use of reusable bags within city limits. A mandatory fee would be imposed on distribution of recyclable paper bags at the point of sale and all stores would be required to provide reusable bags to customers either for sale or at no charge. Other features of the proposed ordinance are similar to bag bans passed and implemented in other communities. (Kreuger, 2015)

The sample bag ban, like so many others, is based on utopian idealism and shallow thinking. For example, the statement “WHEREAS, approximately Nineteen Billion (19,000,000,000) single-use plastic bags are used annually in California but less than 5% are recycled” ignores some very sobering facts.

  • In an article entitled “Do Californian’s Really Use 20 Billion Plastic Bags per Year?” the author disputes the quantity of plastic bags used in California and shows that the real number is likely closer to 12 billion than 20 billion. (van Leeuwen, Do Californians Really Use 20 Billion Plastic Bags Per Year?, 2013)
  • In an article entitled “Plastic Bag Recycling Rate – A Non-Issue” the author explains that the low recycling rate of plastic carryout bags is a direct result of these bags being reused by consumers for disposal of trash and pet litter. As a result, these bags end up in the landfill and are simply no longer available to be recycled. It seems that plastic bag ban advocates have a really hard time grasping this simple fact. (van Leeuwen, Plastic Bag Recycling Rate – A Non-Issue, 2013)

Another troubling statement “WHEREAS, the City of Oceanside taxpayers must bear the brunt of the clean-up costs of this litter” is also a nonsensical statement. (Kreuger, 2015)

  • In an article entitled “San Jose Discovers Bag Ban Does Not Solve Litter Problems” the author shows that San Jose’s plastic bag ban did not solve the city’s litter problem in local creeks and riverbeds! (van Leeuwen, San Jose’s Bag Ban Useless in Solving Litter Problems – Should be Rescinded, 2015)
  • In an article entitled “San Jose Litter Surveys Examined – Plastic Bag Ban Completely Unjustified” the authors’ show that only one out of every two littered plastic bags is a plastic carryout bag. In other words, a bag ban will at most affect only 50% of plastic bag litter. Furthermore, the San Jose litter surveys show that the numbers of plastic carryout bags littered are inconsequential and that no money will be saved in litter cleanup costs. (van Leeuwen, San Jose Litter Surveys Examined – Plastic Bag Ban Completely Unjustified, 2015) In fact, to date no cities or counties have reported cost savings as a result of banning plastic carryout bags.

Another problematic statement in the sample carryout bag ordinance is “WHEREAS, many of these single-use carry-out bags are made from plastic or other material that does not readily decompose” seems to ignore the obvious that reusable bags are also made from materials that do not readily decompose! Furthermore, many types of reusable bags are not even recyclable or compostable!

Another problematic statement is “WHEREAS, from an overall environmental and economic perspective, the best alternative to single-use plastic and paper carry-out bags is a shift to reusable bags” is also nonsense.

  • In an article entitled “Plastic Bags – Greener than Alternatives” the author shows that for all environmental impact categories plastic carryout bags are better for the environment than the alternatives. (van Leeuwen, Plastic Bags – Greener than Alternatives, 2014)
  • In an article entitled “California Landfills Impacted by Bag Bans” the author shows that plastic bag bans have a detrimental impact on landfills in that the amount of carryout bags deposited in the landfill after a bag ban is far greater than before. The unintended consequence of a single-use carryout bag ordinance is that California’s Zero Waste Goal suffers a setback! Likewise, a bag ban in Oceanside will negatively impact Oceanside’s Zero Waste Goal. (van Leeuwen, California Landfills Impacted By Bag Bans, 2014)
  • In an article entitled “Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers” the authors show the annual consumer cost for various bag options available. The authors show the indirect cost to consumers for store provided plastic carryout bags is at most $21 per year before a bag ban. After a bag ban, the cost of paper bags jumps to about $78 per year and the cost of using reusable bags jumps to $250 to $300 per year. The latter includes the value of personal time handling reusable bags. (van Leeuwen & Williams, Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers, 2013)
  • The cost of complying with San Jose’s bag ban costs San Jose residents $230 to eliminate each littered plastic carryout bag. (van Leeuwen, San Jose Litter Surveys Examined – Plastic Bag Ban Completely Unjustified, 2015) Similarly, residents in the City of Austin paid an extra $23,365,100.83 per year to take groceries home and only 8,353 plastic bags were eliminated in the litter stream at a cost of $2,797.21 per plastic bag. The city could have easily hired several unskilled workers to pick up plastic bags for much less than this. (van Leeuwen, Austin’s Plastic Bag Ban a Colossal Failure, 2015)

As we see above, the reasons offered in the sample ordinance for passing a bag ban are simply not realistic.

In the article entitled “Why CA city councils must not pass bag bans with a statewide vote pending” the authors discuss the statewide bag ban and the 2016 referendum which raises serious question for local governments that are considering bag bans pending the statewide vote on the issue: Is it ethical or justifiable to impose a bag ban when their citizens are slated to vote on the matter in the next statewide election and the issue will be settled at the state level?

Consider the following:

  • Local jurisdictions abuse their power; violate the public trust; and waste time and resources in considering or passing local bag bans with a statewide vote pending.
  • There is no justifiable or demonstrable crisis that supports a pre-emptive local bag ban ahead of the November 2016 referendum.
  • Local city councils who implement a bag ban are being used as willing pawns by bag ban pushers and big grocers trying to influence the outcome of the statewide vote scheduled for November, 2016.

Conclusion

The Oceanside City Council was right in rejecting the plastic bag ban. At the very minimum the city should wait until their citizens have had the opportunity to vote on the statewide referendum in November of 2016. The city council would do well to read some of the articles posted on this website!

Bibliography

Kreuger, J. (2015, October 21). Staff Report: Appendix Q – Sample Plastic Bag Resolution. Retrieved from City of Oceanside: http://www.ci.oceanside.ca.us/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=40880

Sifuentes, E. (2015, October 21). Council trashes plastic bag ban proposal. Retrieved from Sna Diego Union-Tribune: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/oct/21/oceanside-no-plastic-bag-ban/

Sifuentes, E. (2015, October 15). Oceanside may consider plastic bag ban. Retrieved from San Diego Union-Tribune: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/oct/15/oceanside-plastic-bag-ban/

van Leeuwen, A. (2013, July 23). Do Californians Really Use 20 Billion Plastic Bags Per Year? Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/docaliforniansreallyuse20billionplasticbagsperyear1.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2013, November 23). Plastic Bag Recycling Rate – A Non-Issue. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/plastic-bag-recycling-rate-a-non-issue.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2014, January 2). California Landfills Impacted By Bag Bans. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/california-landfills-impacted-by-bag-bans1.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2014, January 16). Plastic Bags – Greener than Alternatives. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/plastic-bags-greener-than-alternatives.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2015, October 12). Austin’s Plastic Bag Ban a Colossal Failure. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/austinsplasticbagbanacolossalfailure.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2015, February 23). San Jose Litter Surveys Examined – Plastic Bag Ban Completely Unjustified. Retrieved from Fight the Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/san-jose-litter-surveys-examined-plastic-bag-ban-completely-unjustified1.pdf

van Leeuwen, A. (2015, January 19). San Jose’s Bag Ban Useless in Solving Litter Problems – Should be Rescinded. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/san-jose-discovers-bag-ban-does-not-solve-litter-problems.pdf

van Leeuwen, A., & Williams, D. (2013, June 5). Plastic Bag Alternatives Much More Costly to Consumers. Retrieved from Fight The Plastic Bag Ban: https://fighttheplasticbagban.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/plasticbagalternativesmuchmorecostlytoconsumers.pdf

 

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