As previously noted in the blog article titled “San Jose Painfully Learns Litter Problems Were Not Solved by Plastic Bag Ban!”, the City of San Jose is painfully discovering that it’s much touted plastic bag ban that cost residents millions of dollars did virtually nothing to solve the city’s serious litter problems. According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), one of the stated reasons for implementing the bag ban was to reduce litter on city streets, in creeks, and in storm drains. (City of San Jose, 2010) Two years after the plastic bag ban was implemented, that there has been no reduction of overall litter. Furthermore, the case is made, using San Jose’s own litter surveys and claims of bag ban success, to show that the plastic bag ban was never needed but was a very expensive mistake.
Although the exact number of single-use paper and plastic carryout bags used in the city is unknown, the city estimates that 68 million paper bags and 500 million single-use plastic carryout bags are used every year. In fact the Draft EIR identifies that 1.4 plastic bags are used per day by every living person in the City of San Jose which equates to 511 plastic carryout bags per person per year. (City of San Jose, 2010) This means that a family of four would use 4 x 511 or 2044 plastic bags per year.
In a November 20, 2012 memorandum to the San Jose City Council from Kerrie Romanov (Director of Environmental Services for San Jose) the following statement was made:
Statewide and local bag bans were a SCAM from the very beginning. These measures can best be characterized by deceitful scheming, repeated lies and distortions, backroom deals, a supportive one-sided media, and enough politicians succumbing to political correctness to force this law and the resulting shopping behavior changes on the people of California.
Not only were Californians deprived of more reasonable and acceptable solutions to address plastic bag litter by the shenanigans of bag banners but will also pay an additional $1 Billion per year just to take their groceries home. And after spending all that money, litter will hardly be affected at all! More than 99.6% of litter will still be there waiting to be picked up.
These measures were passed by progressive politicians, and even though the measures affect every one of their constituents, both financially and through the expenditure of personal time, none were allowed to vote for it. In fact, to date, no member of the public has ever been given the chance to vote for or against these measures!
The paper “The California Plastic Bag Ban Scam” examines and exposes the methods used by the bag banners to push bag bans at the local and state level, and how they were able to push through a law that is not only unpopular, but also sets new dangerous precedents in governmental power and law.
Some people welcome a ban on plastic carryout bags, others are opposed, and others are not sure. This article is intended for those of you who are in between and unsure whether you should oppose or support a bag ban.
With as much that goes on in the world today that vies for our attention, getting excited about plastic grocery bags (i.e. plastic carryout bags) is certainly not high on the totem pole. We live in a topsy–turvy world where things that were once banned are allowed (e.g. marijuana) and things that were once allowed are now banned (e.g. plastic carryout bags).
So how can we approach this subject in a fair and impartial manner? How can we determine if we should support or oppose a bag ban? We know that when the legislature or a local jurisdiction passes a law they are trying to solve a perceived problem. So the answer to the question is to understand the nature of the problem and how the proposed solution or law intends to solve that problem and most important what alternative solutions were considered. The more clearly we understand this the better we can see how our personal freedom and liberties are affected and whether that intrusion is warranted and justified.
The purpose of this paper is not to provide a detailed explanation of the problem and the solution (e.g. plastic bag ban) but a philosophical argument about why or why not bag bans should be opposed.
The City of San Jose is painfully discovering that the much touted bag ban that cost residents millions of dollars in out of pocket costs and personal time did nothing to solve litter problems. An environmental group, San Francisco Baykeeper, has notified the city that intends to file a lawsuit because of the city’s failure to prevent trash and sewage from flowing into the Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek through its storm drain system and into San Francisco Bay. The lawsuit is being filed because of violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. (Rogers, 2014)
“San Jose is a hot spot for trash pollution and bacterial pollution into the bay,” said attorney Sejal Choksi, program director for Baykeeper. “Its leaders have not taken care of the problem or prioritized the issue. We’ve seen the trash, we’ve measured the bacterial pollution. What they are doing is not sufficient.” (Rogers, 2014)
In response, Kerrie Romanow, director of environmental services for the City of San Jose, stated that nine catch basins have already been installed in the storm drain system to trap trash and plans are to install 20 more in the next three years. She also stated that the city has increased street sweeping and banned plastic bags. (Rogers, 2014)
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 19 August 2014, the Santa Clara City Council, by a unanimous vote, passed an Ordinance to prohibit the distribution of single-use carry-out bags including the approval and Adoption of a Negative Declaration pursuant with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The latter document declared that the bag ban will not result in a significant environmental impact.
Similar to ordinances passed by other cities, the proposed ordinance would ban the distribution of plastic carryout bags at point of sale beginning 1 December 2014. Retailers may also make paper bags or reusable bags (Cloth or thick plastic bags) available for sale at a minimum fee of 10 cents. In addition, customers who participate in WIC or SNAP (Food Stamp Programs) are eligible to receive one or more paper bags at NO COST. The fees collected by the retail establishment are to be retained by the retailer and are meant to pay for the cost of implementing the ordinance (i.e. the cost of paper bags provided to customers paying the paper bag fee and the cost of free paper bags received by WIC and SNAP participants.) (van Leeuwen, Plastic Bag Ban Creates New Welfare Benefit, 2013) A retail establishment is subject to a fine for each occurrence where it provides a customer a plastic carryout bag not meeting the requirements of a reusable bag at the point of sale for the purpose of carrying purchases home. Continue reading Santa Clara City Council Passes Bag Ban→
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.
Litter from fast food waste makes up 29.4% of roadside litter. Should we ban fast food takeout? Now, before you answer, plasticgrocery bags make up less than 0.6% of all roadside litter and cities all over California are banning plastic grocery bags! The good news is that fast food takeout is not being banned, but it begs the question “Why are plastic grocery bags singled out when their contribution to litter is miniscule?”
In fact, officials who vote for plastic bag bans cannot even point to a plastic bag litter problem in their own community! Let alone a problem of sufficient magnitude that would justify a ban. Litter surveys are rarely ever conducted and when they are, they are conducted in a haphazard manner leading to questionable results. Decisions to implement bag bans are usually based on anecdotal evidence, questionable at best, offered by environmental groups such as showing pictures of a few plastic bags littered around town, in the river bed, and pictures of a turtle chewing on a plastic bag.
Everything that man uses is littered. Ever see a discarded candy wrapper, a paper bag, a milk carton, a mattress, a sofa, or a tire on the side of the road? Life would be tough if we ban everything that is littered, including plastic grocery bags. Despite the lack of evidence that plastic bag litter is a significant problem, let’s assume it is and look at more cost effective and appropriate methods of dealing with that litter, methods that would be beneficial to the community.
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.