Plastic Bag Bans – Designed to Generate and Protect Bag Revenue from Competition!

Short Canyon in Owens Peak Wilderness – By Bureau of Land Management – via Wikimedia Commons

Most people believe that laws banning plastic grocery bags are all about protecting the environment from plastic bag litter that damages the environment and harms wildlife. However, the real reason for a plastic bag ban has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with generating profitable bag fees and protecting those bag fees from being eliminated or eroded away by competition.

This paper makes the case that grocers, reusable bag manufacturers, and environmental organizations have teamed up to pressure state and local officials in passing bag ban laws in their own self-interest at the expense of consumers while doing very little for the environment.

Grocers are Already Free to Offer Any Bag at Any Price

To begin our discussion, there are a number of things that retail stores have the complete freedom to do any time they so choose, even without a plastic bag ban:

  1. Stop the distribution of lightweight plastic grocery bags.
  2. Choose the types of carryout bags they distribute.
  3. Sell bags to customers outright or embed bag costs in product pricing.
  4. Provide customers a rebate for bringing and using their own reusable bags.

All four items listed above are approaches that stores have the absolute freedom to do any time they so choose. In fact, no laws are needed as demonstrated by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods who do not offer plastic bags and distribute paper bags at the point of sale to customers who did not bring their own reusable bags. In addition, these stores and many others provide customers a rebate for each reusable bag the customer brings in and uses. The rebate is an encouragement to customers to bring their own bags and also a reimbursement for the bag fees that customers pay indirectly to the store through higher prices.

To read the entire article, click on the following link: Eliminating Competition Is the Real Reason behind Bag Bans.


2 thoughts on “Plastic Bag Bans – Designed to Generate and Protect Bag Revenue from Competition!

  1. Bottom line, does it look like we may be able to save the Plastic Bags in Nov. or does it look like we will lose. I absolutely want them in the stores, etc. I need the plastic bags and no reason to ban them at all.

  2. Apparently while the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition won some lawsuits they filed against cities like Oakland which passed a plastic bag ban back in 2008. Those winning lawsuits eventually backfired and resulted in the mess we have now. The reason was their argument as they stated in the suit that stores affected by a plastic bag ban will merely switch to paper and cause more harm to the environment as shoppers won’t change their behavior as environmentalists believe. Therefore, cities must do an EIR.
    We can take an interesting Look at: While some cities were discouraged by the extra cost and efforts to do the court mandated EIR. Those who pushed ahead decided to expand the ban to cover far more stores than the original target which were the supermarkets and include a fee on bag alternatives as well. The biggest example is San Jose as the original lawsuit was on cities like Oakland that passed a plastic bag ban on Supermarkets grossing over $1million a year. San Jose was originally planning to draft an ordinance based on the one Oakland had passed that year but the city noticed the bad results from the lawsuit against Oakland which lead Oakland to rescind their plastic bag ban. In 2009, San Jose decided to find work around to prevent a similar lawsuit by doing an EIR of a bag ban scenario that is to include all retailers in the city rather than just supermarkets and requiring all of them to charge 0.10 for a paper bag with the expectation that shoppers would change their behavior rather than just blindly switching to paper bags. The San Jose bag ban was eventually passed in 2010 and went into effect in 2012. So eventually these groups with environmentalists, grocers, and the politicians you mentioned end up coming up with their win-win solution that eventually spread to over 100 cities statewide and in 2014 the state legislator. Which is that Grocers profit from bag fees while eliminating risk of competition, environmentalists gaining victory of enforcement of their main goal of changing people’s behaviors, politicians especially Democrats gain support from special interests such as grocers making it a politically right thing to do. Ironically, back in 2008, grocers and related groups sided with the plastic companies against a ban. Though, I guess if the industry did not file the lawsuit with the STPB coalition back in 2008; nowadays, I bet the bandwagon would had been far less popular among cities and mostly would only had covered supermarkets and paper would still have been free. And no way would it have made it to the state level. The article is right on as it is obvious grocers are supporting these fees. Some cities such as San Jose exempt bags meeting the “reusable” criteria from both the ban and the fee. Though stores often still con shoppers by lying they are required to charge for those as well. Only a few chain stores and almost all non-grocery retail stores take advantage of the legal reusable bag loophole in the city.

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