The COVID-19 virus pandemic has seen an unprecedented reaction by our government officials in shutting down the economy, stay at home orders, and shortages of essential items at grocery, department and drug stores. One noteworthy change is that stores seeking to protect their employees and customers will no longer accept customer supplied reusable bags and instead recommend the use of store-provided paper or plastic bags all without charging the mandatory 10-cent fee.
San Francisco, the California city where the plastic bag ban got its start, has temporarily banned customer supplied reusable bags for sanitary reasons. Specifically, the city is “not permitting customers to bring their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items from home.”
In addition, Governor Chris Sununu from the state of New Hampshire announced that reusable bags will be temporarily banned during the COVID-19 outbreak and that all retail stores will be required to use single-use paper or plastic bags.
Other states like Maine and New York have postponed implementation of, or enforcement of plastic bag bans until after the pandemic is over.
Proposition 67 is a Referendum on the California Statewide Ban (Senate Bill 270) on single-use plastic bags. A “YES” vote would uphold the law and a “NO” vote would overturn it.
Fight The Plastic Bag Ban recommends a NO vote on this proposition.
Proposition 65 is an initiative statute that would redirects money collected by grocery and other retail stores through sale of carry-out bags and require those funds to be deposited into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specific environmental projects. If voters pass Proposition 67 to uphold the state’s current carryout bag law, Proposition 65 would require that bag fees collected from shoppers be redirected to the state and used for grants for certain environmental and natural resources purposes.
Fight The Plastic Bag Ban recommends a YES vote on this proposition.
In 2014, the California State Legislature passed a ban on single-use plastic bags which was signed into law by Governor Brown. Subsequently, the new law was challenged through the referendum process by the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA). The APBA collected signatures on petitions and a sufficient number of signatures were collected to put the law (SB-270) on the ballot for voter approval/disapproval.
If the law is upheld, the use of single-use plastic carryout bags would be prohibited and most but not all customers would be forced to pay 10-cents for each paper or plastic reusable bag distributed at the point of sale.
If the law is upheld, the law would create two classes of shoppers. One class of shoppers would have to pay the 10-cents bag fee for each store-provided paper or plastic reusable bag; the other class of shoppers would be exempt and receive store-provided bags at no cost. Customers who pay 10-cents each for store provided bags would subsidize the cost of providing bags to customer who are exempt from the bag fee. The customers who are exempt from the bag fee are those customers who participate in public assistance programs, such as food stamps.
Whatever happened to treating all customers equally?
The 10-cent bag fee is not subject to sales tax and the entire amount collected is kept by store providing a huge windfall to grocers. It should be noted that the law died in the California State Assembly, until the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Safeway struck a deal regarding the 10-cent bag fee.
It should be noted, that voting NO on this proposition will not repeal local bag bans. However, if voters reject the statewide bag ban, it will provide impetus to opponents of local bag bans and greatly assist in repealing them.
Proposition 65 is an initiative statute that would redirects money collected by grocery and other retail stores through sale of carry-out bags and require those funds to be deposited into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specific environmental projects. If voters pass Proposition 67 to uphold the state’s current carryout bag law, Proposition 65 would require that bag fees collected from shoppers be redirected to the state. Revenues are expected to exceed tens of millions of dollars annually. Revenues would be used for grants for certain environmental and natural resources purposes. If voters reject the state’s current carryout bag law, there would likely be minor fiscal effects.
A plastic bag ban does not produce any significant environmental benefits in proportion to the cost and effort expended by shoppers. In the article “Bag Bans – A Waste of Time and Money!” the author argues and demonstrates that bag bans are large on cost with negligible environmental benefits. Proposition 65 if passed would deny a financial windfall to grocers and instead put that money towards real projects that benefit the environment.
Last September, the Milpitas City Council reversed a previous council decision and quietly passed a bag ban that affected every business and citizen of Milpitas beginning on January 1, 2016.
However, in their hurry to pass a plastic bag ban, they made a critical error in the language of the ordinance that imposes a “minimum fee” for paper or reusable bags distributed to customers at the point of sale. Section II-5-4.00-part B of Ordinance 287 clearly identifies a limited time frame for any minimum fee as follows:
“B. On or before January 1, 2016, a retail establishment may only make recycled paper bags or reusable bags available to customers if the retailer charges a minimum of ten cents.” [Milpitas Ordinance 287]
Thus, according to the legally passed ordinance, on or after January 2, 2016 there is no such minimum fee requirement for paper and reusable bags distributed by Milpitas retailers at the point of sale.
However, this error has additional benefits to businesses. Part C of that same section indicates that only bags that are available for sale are required to be separately itemized on the sale receipt. This would, therefore, not apply to bags that are provided for free on or after January 2, 2016. And Section III-5-5.00 requires every retail establishment to track the daily number of bags sold for a minimum of 3 years. Again, this would not apply to bags that are provided for free on or after January 2, 2016. Continue reading Milpitas bag ban mistake – No legal ground to impose 10-cent bag fee!→
In June 2015, the Austin Resource Recovery Service released a candid report entitled “Environmental Effects of the Single Use Bag Ordinance in Austin, Texas” questioning the effectiveness of the city’s own bag ban. The report noted that the ordinance reduced litter from “single-use” or “lightweight” plastic carryout bags, but that the unintended consequence was an increase in the use of 4-mil reusable plastic shopping bags (disposed of after just a single-use), and the increased cost to consumers and retailers. (Waters, 2015, p. 28)
The primary goal of the Austin Single-Use Bag Ordinance was to reduce the volume of plastic carryout bags dumped in the landfill. The city’s own self-assessment reported that the weight of 4-mil plastic reusable bags disposed of by shoppers after just a single use was just as much as the lightweight plastic bags disposed of in the landfill before the ban. (Cape, 2015) In other words, the bag ban backfired and resulted in a much higher environmental cost. (Waters, 2015, p. 25)
On October 2, 2015 the American Progressive Bag Alliance, representing plastic bag manufacturers, filed a proposed initiative statute with Kamala D. Harris, California State Attorney General, entitled the “Environmental Fee Protection Act.” The initiative would require that mandated fees paid by shoppers for carryout bags to be put into a statewide environmental fund rather than kept by grocers. (Lin, 2015) (Johnson, 2015)
According the filing: “The purpose of the Environmental Fee Protection Act is to fulfill Californians’ expectations by requiring that any charges on carryout bags paid by consumers in connection with, or to advance, any plastic bag ban are dedicated to appropriate and worthy environmental objectives like drought mitigation, recycling, clean drinking water supplies, parks, beach cleanup, litter removal, and wildlife habitat restoration.” (Johnson, 2015)
To be more explicit, the proposed initiative declares as follows:
“The People of the State of California find and declare as follows:
(a) In 2014, the California state Legislature enacted a ban on plastic carryout bags after lobbying by special interests including the California Grocers Association.
(b) The law further mandated that stores sell every paper or reusable carryout bag they provide to consumers for a minimum of 10 cents. Stores can charge even more if they so choose, and the grocers and retailers are specifically required by the law to keep these mandated sales charges as extra revenue.
(c) None of the sales charges on carryout bags required by state law will go to environmental purposes. The Legislature specifically wrote the law in such a way as to make these sales charges additional revenue to grocers and retailers.
(d) This special interest deal will provide grocers and retailers over $400 million in added revenue every year – all at the expense of California consumers and with little or no benefit to the environment.
Despite calls for patience ahead of the November 2016 California Bag Ban vote, and complaints from local business that it costs them up to $2 per paper bag to track paper bag sales, the Milpitas City Council reversed its previous City Council vote and implemented a bag ban to begin January 1, 2016. Since the previous vote in November, 2013, two of the City Council members had termed out, and the new city council members went along with the Mayor Esteves to impose a bag ban on the people without a vote. The City Council also scheduled the vote on a night that the lone remaining dissenter, Council Member Giordano, was absent.
The implementation of plastic bag bans (and paper bag fees) in California has been promoted and pushed by well-organized and well-funded special interest groups working through local politicians, ultimately enacting over 100 local ordinances and subjecting about 33% of the state’s population to bag bans. (White, 2014)
Eventually, after years of failed attempts to pass a statewide bag ban, these organizations were able to leverage local bag bans along with some arm twisting until the California legislature succumbed and passed a statewide bag ban. (Williams & van Leeuwen, 2015) However, when the statewide bag ban was signed into law by Governor Brown, the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) successfully challenged the law through a referendum by collecting 809,810 signatures of registered California voters (with 598,684 valid signatures and 93,924 over and above the quantity needed). This means the statewide law will be on hold until it can be approved or rejected by the people of California in the November, 2016 statewide election. (Fight The Plastic Bag Ban, 2015) Continue reading Why California City Councils Must Not Pass Bag Bans with a Statewide Vote Pending→
Dallas, Texas. Faced with a lawsuit claiming that the city did not have authority to tax plastic grocery bags, a lawsuit the city was certain to lose, the Dallas City Council voted 10-4 to repeal the ordinance that placed 5-cent fee on plastic grocery bags. In a companion motion, to ban plastic grocery bags entirely, the City Council voted 9-6 to reject the ban. On Monday, 8 June grocery stores will again be able to issue plastic grocery bags to shoppers for free. (Findell, 2015)
Unlike California, where grocers get to keep 100% of the plastic and paper bag fees; grocers in Dallas only get to keep 10% with 90% of the fee going to the city. The 5-cent plastic bag fee was originally approved by Dallas City Council in March 2014 and went into effect in January, 2015. (Gillett, 2015)
The Dallas plastic grocery bag fee became a hot issue when a group of bag manufacturers and recyclers filed suit against the city. The lawsuit alleged that the 5-cent-per-bag tax passed by the City Council in March 2014 violates the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act. At the time the Dallas Bag Fee was passed, then-State Attorney General Greg Abbott (now Governor Abbott) was looking into whether bag bans or taxes were legal in the state. He concluded that such ordinances were a violation of state law. (Putrich, 2015)
Several of the Dallas City Council members argued that the bag fee was government overreach. Several other council members argued that consumers were beginning to change shopping habits. The presence of the Plastic Bag Monster™ did not persuade council members.
The motion to repeal the 5-cent fee on plastic bags was passed by the City Council, 10-4 with council members Mike Rawlings, Tennell Atkins, Monica Alonzo, Adam Medrano, Vonciel Jones Hill, Rick Callahan, Sheffie Kadane, Jerry Allen, Lee Kleinman, and Jennifer Staubach Gates voting YES to repeal the bag fee. Council members Scott Griggs, Dwaine Caraway, Sandy Greyson, and Philip Kingston voted NO to keep the 5-cent bag fee in place. (Findell, 2015)
The companion motion to ban plastic grocery bags failed to pass the City Council by a vote of 9-6 with council members Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Dwaine Caraway, Lee Kleinman, Philip Kingston, and Carolyn Davis voting YES to ban plastic grocery bags and council members Mike Rawlings, Tennell Atkins, Monica Alonzo, Vonciel Jones Hill, Rick Callahan, Sheffie Kadane, Jerry Allen, Sandy Greyson, and Jennifer Staubach Gates to vote NO to keep plastic grocery bags. (Findell, 2015)
On Monday, 4 May, 2015 the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 to 1 to finalize the repeal of the two year old ban on plastic bags and the mandatory 10-cent fee on paper bags. The repeal is effective on 3 June, 2015 when stores can again issue plastic carryout bags. (Carpio, 2015)
Council-members Mike Posey, Erik Peterson, Billy O’Connell, Barbara Delgleize, Dave Sullivan, and Jim Katapodis voted to finalize repeal the ordinance and Mayor Jill Hardy voted to keep the ban in place. (van Leeuwen, 2015)
According to Council-member Mike Posey, the plastic bag ban was never an environmental issue, but an issue of personal freedom. (Sharon, 2015)