The previously published article titled “Bacterial and Viral Health Hazards of Reusable Shopping Bags” has been updated to include the potential role that a reusable shopping has the potential to transmit the Ebola and other viruses to infect others.
The article discusses that if reusable shopping bags are not washed on a regular basis, there will be a buildup of bacteria, yeast, mold, and coliforms which if they come in contact with food items could be a potential health hazard. The article also discusses an incident investigated by Public Health officials that demonstrated that a reusable bag can act as a carrier to transmit the Norovirus and make other people sick. We conclude from this incident, that if a reusable bag can transmit the Norovirus, that it can also transmit other viruses, such as the influenza virus and Ebola virus, as well. Prevention is very simple, take the time to wash and sanitize your bag. Continue reading Reusable Bags and Health Hazards→
Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation, SB-270, today that will implement the nation’s first statewide ban on the distribution of single-use plastic bags; the plastic bags that customers use to carry their groceries home. (Press Secretary, 2014)
“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said Governor Brown. ‘We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.” (Press Secretary, 2014)
Unfortunately, Governor Brown is sadly misinformed as reflected in his statement above; banning a single item, such as thin-film plastic grocery bags will not stop the torrent of plastic that pollutes our beaches, parks, waterways and the ocean. Single-Use Plastic Bags, although more visible as litter, are a very small part of the total litter stream and not the only plastic item that finds its way to and pollutes our beaches, parks, waterways and the ocean. Plastic items that find their way to the ocean include the following: plastic bottle caps, plastic cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, balloons, golf tees, six-pack rings, polystyrene, plastic bags, ball-point pens, etc. These items are harmful to marine wildlife. What is needed is not a feel-good bag ban that bans a single item from the litter stream, but a comprehensive solution to prevent and remove all litter from the environment! Continue reading California Governor Signs SB-270 to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags→
The California Legislature has once again failed the people of California, this time by passing a draconian plastic bag ban i.e. SB-270). This legislation would ban the distribution of thin-film plastic carryout bags by grocery and convenience stores and impose a minimum fee of 10-cents per store provided paper or reusable bag. The intent of the fee is to change shopper behavior by using a punitive financial incentive to coerce shoppers into bringing and using their own reusable bags. The legislature could have passed a much simpler solution that would have received a much greater and widespread public support and would not have involved changing shopper behavior or imposing bag fees while at the same time solving the plastic bag litter problem. Continue reading California Legislature Fails Citizens with Draconian Bag Ban→
On Friday, 29 August, 2014 the California State Legislature passed a statewide plastic bag ban in passing SB-270. SB-270 now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. Governor Brown has until 30 September 2014 to act on the measure. Governor Brown has not indicated support for or opposition to the measure.
If the measure becomes law, shoppers will have to bring their own carryout bags, purchase and use reusable bags, or purchase a paper or thick plastic “reusable” bag for 10-cents each. The law becomes effective on 1 July 2015 for most grocery stores and 1 July 2016 for convenience stores.
On Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with a Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance for the unincorporated areas in Ventura County. The ordinance would ban the free distribution of single-use paper and plastic carryout bags and impose a charge of 10-cents for recyclable paper bags. The item was placed on the agenda by supervisors Steve Bennett and John Zaragoza, both of whom feared that the State of California would not pass a statewide plastic bag ban, a solution both of them preferred. The agenda item would direct county staff to prepare an ordinance based on the model ordinance contained in the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans (BEACON) Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It should be mentioned that Supervisors Bennett and Zaragoza also serve on the BEACON board, a joint powers authority that was responsible for development of the BEACON EIR.
According to the agenda item, “The ordinance would apply to supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience food stores, liquor stores and other retail stores that sell a limited line of food goods including milk, bread, sodas and snack food. The ordinance would not apply to plastic produce bags, nor to plastic bags used in restaurants and cafes for take-out food. Approximately 21 retail stores in the Ventura County unincorporated area would be affected by this ordinance. The greatest concentration of these stores is in the Ojai Valley.”
The stated goal is: “The ordinance is intended to reduce litter and other environmental impacts related to single-use carryout plastic bags and provide an incentive for increased use of reusable bags.”
Reason Foundation, a public policy research organization recently released several studies that raise serious questions about plastic bag ban and the associated environmental and economic impacts. The articles and associated documents can be downloaded by clicking on the article links.
In a study titled “An Evaluation of the Effects of California’s Proposed Plastic Bag Ban” researchers Julian Morris and Lance Christensen look at bag bans implemented by local jurisdictions and the recently introduced bill by State Senator Alex Padilla (SB 270) that would impose a statewide ban. They state the premise of these laws is to benefit the environment and reduce municipal costs; but, that in practice the opposite occurs. They state that available evidence suggests that these laws will do nothing to protect the environment, will waste resources, and cost Californian’s billions of dollars.
In a study titled “How Green Is that Grocery Bag Ban?” researchers Julian Morris and Brian Seasholes assess the environmental and economic effects of grocery bag bans and taxes. The researchers noted that the bag bans have a miniscule impact on litter, does not reduce litter collection costs, does not reduce environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions, more than likely has an adverse health effect from people not washing reusable bags, and that using reusable bags are inconvenient and costly, and that the cost of bag bans disproportionately fall on the poor.
Most communities that have implemented plastic bag bans have generally followed the same prescription. First, plastic carryout bag are banned at checkout, and a minimum fee of 10-cents is charged for each paper bag issued in order to coerce shoppers into bringing their own reusable bags. In addition, most communities but not all, provide an exemption to the paper bag fee for certain low income groups.
Most communities that have passed plastic bag bans have done so without seriously considering the impact upon on community residents. In particular the costs imposed on residents complying with the bag ban. While a few cities have calculated the cost of reusable bags for a typical family, they have largely ignored the value of personal time required for residents to handle reusable bags (such as the effort to put bags into the car, wash bags on a regular basis, dry bags, fold bags, etc.) and the increased cost of water and energy. As a result such estimates are flawed and incomplete.
Bag usage surveys conducted to date overwhelmingly show that shoppers have rejected using reusable bags and preferred to use paper bags or NO bags at all by a ratio of about two-to-one. While the stated intent of most plastic bag ban ordinances is to shift the majority of shoppers into using reusable bags, and reinforced by imposing minimum fees on paper bags in order to coerce shoppers into using reusable bags, the exact opposite has happened instead. This is not surprising since using reusable bags is not without its own set of problems.
Currently, retail stores distribute plastic and paper bags to customers at checkout to carry their purchases home at no additional charge. The cost of these bags is included in retail prices paid for and shared by all customers.
Customers who choose to use no bags or reusable bags still pay a small portion toward paper and plastic bags, even when they choose not to receive such bags. However, some stores do credit customers for every reusable bag used.
On 1 October, 2013 the Lake Tahoe City Council voted 3-2 to ban “single-use” plastic bags distributed at the check stand for customers to carry purchases home. Councilmembers Hal Cole, Angela Swanson, and Brooke Laine voted for the ban and Mayor Tom Davis and councilmember JoAnn Conner voted against the ban. What makes this plastic carryout bag ban ordinance different from others is that is does not mandate a fee for paper bags; does not require retail stores to keep records and report to the city on the number of paper bags distributed and fees collected; and does not implement an enforcement mechanism by the city. The council decided that it is up to the retailer to decide if he wants to charge a fee for paper bags or recover the cost of paper bags through higher retail prices.