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.
The San Jose Mercury News recently published an editorial entitled “Success! California’s first-in-the-nation plastic bag ban works”. The editorial claims that because fewer plastic bags were found during this year’s Coastal Clean Up day proves that California’s “grand experiment” with a plastic bag ban is a success. (Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, 2017)
But is finding fewer littered plastic bags a real measure of the bag ban’s success? If not, how do you really measure the success of the state’s plastic bag ban law? Is success not determined by results and how well each of the law’s objectives are met? The answer is a resounding, Yes!
Success is defined as “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” (Oxford Dictionary, 2017) Using this definition and assuming a narrowly defined goal to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic grocery bag litter, then the plastic bag ban could be considered “a success”. It could never be otherwise! After all, if you ban or sharply curtail the use of single-use plastic grocery bags there will be fewer available to be littered. Continue reading Is California’s Bag Ban Really a Success?→
Several articles have been recently published suggesting a potential link between California’s Plastic Bag Ban (Proposition 67) and the Hepatitis A outbreak among the homeless populations in California where more than a dozen have died and more than 400 have contracted the disease. The articles are as follows:
While the above articles do not provide conclusive proof of a causal connection between the plastic bag ban and the Hepatitis A outbreak among the homeless in California, the articles do document a link between the once plentiful plastic bags and hygiene and sanitation issues associated with the homeless. Hygiene and sanitation issues also associated with the Hepatitis A outbreak. Rather than summarize the above articles herein; the reader is urged to read the above listed articles instead.
“Plenty of people discounted the plastic-bag theory but San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was not one of them. “Yes, absolutely, we know people use the bags for that,” she said. “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.” (Graham, 2017)
The above articles demonstrate that California’s bag bans are responsible for exacerbating hygiene issues for those living on the streets or in homeless encampments.
In a previously posted article, entitled “Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags”, the author identifies the health hazards with the use of reusable shopping bags to the public and the homeless. For example, reusable bags must be maintained in a sanitary condition by regular washing or cleaning. Those who live on the streets and in homeless encampments simply do not have the means of washing or cleaning reusable bags. In addition, reusable bags that come into the grocery store from an unsanitary or disease laden environments (e.g. a homeless encampments or a home where there are communicable diseases) poses a public health hazard to shoppers and store clerks. For details read the cited article. (van Leeuwen, 2013)
Have you noticed how many grocery clerks are now donning plastic latex gloves? If you noticed this, then you must ask yourself: Why? Could it be that handling a customer’s reusable bags poses a real health risk to store employees, a health risk not encountered with store provided paper and plastic bags? The answer is obvious.
Bag Bans don’t solve problems, they just exchange one problem for another.
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.
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.
We have all heard the expression “I’m from Missouri”. This response is usually uttered by a person who is skeptical about what they have heard or read. In fact, a smart person, is a person who is skeptical and who has learned how to discern truth from falsehood and who will not let emotional arguments sway them but searches out the truth and the underlying facts.
Despite the fact that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been shown to be a myth, this myth is still repeated in public testimony before city councils in support of plastic bag bans.
It is refreshing to see several well written articles that debunk this myth about floating islands of plastic debris in the ocean, and how this particular myth got started. You will enjoy reading these well documented articles:
On Tuesday, August 25 the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed an Ordinance on a 3-2 vote to ban Single-Use Plastic Bags at Markets and pharmacies in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County.
Supervisors Salud Carbajal, Janet Wolf, and Doreen Farr voted for the bag ban and Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino voted against the bag ban.
Opponents of the California statewide plastic bag ban successfully challenged the state law by collecting enough signatures from registered voters to put the measure on the 2016 ballot through the referendum process, a safeguard provided in California’s Constitution. The statewide referendum will finally give ordinary citizens the opportunity to vote on this unpopular measure.
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)
Most plastic bag bans follow the simple formula of banning plastic grocery bags and placing a fee on paper bags in order to force shoppers to bring and use their own reusable bags. A bag ban is justified because littered plastic grocery bags are unsightly litter that can cause harm to wildlife through ingestion. However, absent from the discussion are three key issues: (1) the magnitude of plastic grocery bag litter; (2) the cost to consumers to comply with a bag ban; and (3) the impact on reducing litter, particularly plastic debris, that finds its way to the ocean and potentially causes harm to wildlife through ingestion.
When these issues are honestly looked at we discover that plastic bag litter is negligible and the cost to consumers is disproportionate to the results achieved. For example, plastic bag litter comprises only 0.6% of roadside litter of which about only half (about 0.3%) is plastic grocery bags. Hence, a plastic bag ban will still leave 99.7% of litter that must be cleaned up through traditional litter abatement methods. The effort to clean up the remaining 99.7% of litter could easily include the other 0.3% (e.g. plastic grocery bags and retail carryout bags) as part of the total effort. In other words, a plastic bag ban is not needed and certainly NOT JUSTIFIED for the small amount of plastic grocery bags littered in the community.
Furthermore, the cost to consumers to eliminate plastic grocery bags from roadside litter averages about 12-cents for each 2-cent plastic bag eliminated by a bag ban. Add to that the cost of plastic bag bans by local and state governments and costs incurred by retailers increasing the total cost far more than the 12-cents cost per plastic bag incurred by consumers! If you compute the annual cost per littered bag, it will be on the order of $250.00 per littered plastic bag per year. Obviously, this is NOT a good deal for consumers! So not only is a plastic bag ban a waste of time and money for the public; it is also a waste of time and money on the part of the environmentalist who promotes bag bans for such a miniscule reduction in litter, when traditional comprehensive litter abatement methods exist that will not only eliminate all plastic bags but also other plastic debris that makes its way to the ocean potentially harming wildlife.
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)