Now that California voters have approved the statewide plastic bag ban; many consumers are now faced with the task of selecting and using an alternative method to transport their purchases home. All of these alternative methods are costlier, time consuming, and more inconvenient than the store provided paper or plastic carryout bags previously supplied through indirect cost.
Bag options available to the shopper are as follows:
Use No Bags. In past surveys, about 42% of shoppers chose this option. Either carrying their groceries in their arms or putting them back in the shopping cart to transport their purchases back to the car.
Use Your Own Plastic Bags. Use those plastic grocery bags you have stashed away and when they are gone, purchase your own plastic T-shirt bags. You can purchase a box of 1000 T-shirt carryout bags for between $10 and $25 either from a local distributor or from an internet store and are available in white or neon colors. Keep a box in each car you own and you will always have bags with you when you shop. Estimated yearly cost is about $45.
Use Store-Provided Paper or Plastic Reusable Bags. This option will cost you a minimum of 10-cents per bag. Estimated yearly cost is about $78. By reusing these bags a few times for shopping, you can cut down your out-of-pocket cost.
Bring and Use Your Own Reusable Bags. A wide variety of reusable bags are available for purchase from cloth to bags made from non-woven polypropylene and similar materials. Estimated yearly cost is between $250 and $300. The estimated cost not only includes your out-of-pocket cost to purchase and replace bags, but also includes the value of your time to manage and wash reusable bags.
Bring and Use Your Own Collapsible Crate. Several types of collapsible crates or baskets are available that can be used to transport your groceries to your home.
On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, California voters voted by a narrow margin to approve Proposition 67, the statewide plastic grocery bag ban. According to the Secretary of State website the vote was as follows:
YES – 7,228,900 votes or 53.3%
NO – 6,340,322votes or 46.7%
Similarly, Proposition 65, a companion measure that would only be effective if Proposition 67 is passed by voters, failed. This measure would require grocers and retailers who are mandated to collect a 10-cent fee for each carryout bag issued at the point of sale, to deposit those moneys into a special fund to support specified environmental projects. (CalRecycle, 2016) According to the Secretary of State website Proposition 65 failed as follows:
NO – 7,276,478 votes or 53.9%
YES – 6,222,547 votes or 46.1%
According to the Cal Recycle website the measure became effective 9 November 2016. Regarding a grace period, the website states: “When Governor Brown signed SB 270 in 2014, the effective dates of the bill’s statutory requirements would have allowed a grace period prior to the onset of the law’s ban on distribution of single-use plastic bags and requirement for stores to charge customers at the point of sale for recycled paper bags and reusable grocery bags. However, when the referendum qualified for the November 2016 ballot, implementation of SB 270 was suspended. Proposition 67 passed and the law is in effect as originally written.” (CalRecycle, 2016) This means shoppers should expect to be charged 10-cents for each store provided paper or plastic reusable bag next time they shop. To avoid those fees, simply bring your own bags of any type or do not use carryout bags at all. Continue reading California Voters Approve Statewide Bag Ban→
This website posts many articles available for download (click on Documents menu) including the following article entitled “10 Reasons Small Businesses Should Oppose Bag Bans”. This article discusses some reasons why businesses, particularly small businesses, should oppose bans on plastic carryout bags.
Plastic bag bans attempt to change people’s behavior and lifestyle by using an economic incentive to coerce (force) people into bringing and using their own reusable bags. If bringing and using your own reusable bags was such a good idea, the public would have readily adopted the solution. But pre-bag ban surveys show that only about 10% of shoppers voluntarily brought and used their own reusable bags with the majority choosing to use store provided paper and plastic carryout bags. Even after a bag ban, about two-thirds of shoppers’ reject bringing and using their own reusable bags and either chose to use no bags or chose to purchase store provided paper and reusable plastic bags. Even though the store-provided paper and reusable plastic bags purchased by customers have the word “Reusable” printed on them in large type, shoppers treat these bags as disposable bags!
In view of the above, when you consider that people act in their own self-interest and adopt solutions that work best for them, then you must conclude that plastic bag bans are a colossal failure and the wrong solution to a perceived litter problem with lightweight plastic carryout bags! The right solution would be to just use paper bags or make the plastic bags from a thicker plastic film to prevent them from so easily becoming windblown litter. In fact, in areas where the thicker reusable plastic bag has been used, there is a corresponding decrease in windblown plastic bag litter. A result that could have been achieved without trying to change shopper behavior through coercive and tyrannical means.
Chicago’s Plastic Bag Ban is truly a unique ordinance. While the ordinance contains features found in many other bag bans across the nation, some features such as a mandatory minimum fee for store provided paper and plastic reusable bags is not included. The ordinance can therefore be said to be customer friendly.
The ordinance was passed by the City Council in 2014 and took effect on 1 August 2015 for stores with a floor area 10,000 square feet or more and 1 August 2016 for stores less than 10,000 square feet. The ban is applicable to chain stores “that sell perishable or non-perishable goods, including, but not limited to clothing, food, and personal items” where “chain store” is defined as “three or more stores having common ownership or any store, regardless of ownership, that is part of a franchise”. The ordinance is not applicable to dine in or take out restaurants or any store that is not defined as a “chain” store. (City of Chicago, 2014)
Because the bag ban exempts any store that is not a chain store, as defined in the ordinance, one could conclude that the ordinance is also small business friendly. For example, a neighborhood mom & pop grocery store or a fabric store could continue providing their customers with thin-film plastic carryout bags.
Stores subject to the bag ban ordinance must “provide reusable bags, recyclable paper bags, or commercially compostable plastic bags, or any combination thereof, to customers for the purpose of enabling the customer to carry away goods from the point of sale”. (City of Chicago, 2014)
The bag ban does not specifically impose a bag fee nor prohibits stores from imposing a fee for store-provided paper and reusable bags.
According to the article “Six months in, Chicago’s plastic bag ban a mixed bag” by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, some stores are charging a 10-cent fee for store provided bags but most of the large grocers are giving away thicker plastic bags in place of the flimsy “T-Shirt” carryout bags. (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2016)
In a commentary published in the Chicago Tribune titled “Chicago’s misguided plastic bag ban” the author Erik Telford makes the statement that the bag ban is a “poorly designed policy gone awry” and that “the city took a half-hearted approach to regulating plastic bag use”. The author also points out that bag ban advocates want the city to add a mandatory minimum fee for store provided paper and reusable bags and one of the city’s aldermen even wants to increase the thickness of plastic reusable bags so that stores have no choice but to charge customers for them. In addition, the author’s summary paragraph says it all: “Chicago’s ill-conceived plastic bag ban is the latest reminder of the dangers inherent in big government programs. New regulations almost always have unforeseen consequences. Advocating for behavior change through force of law can easily end up leaving a city worse off than it was before.” (Telford, 2016)
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.
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.
On October 21, 2015, the Oceanside City Council voted 3-2 against moving ahead with a proposed plastic bag ban. Councilmen Jack Feller and Jerry Kern and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed the agenda item and Mayor Jim Wood and Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery voted in favor. (Sifuentes, Council trashes plastic bag ban proposal, 2015)
The agenda item, if it had passed, would have directed city staff and the Utilities Commission to prepare a Single-Use Carryout Bag ordinance from the sample Single-Use Carryout Bag ordinance contained in Appendix Q of the Oceanside Zero Waste Strategic Resource Management Plan, seek public input, and submit a proposed ordinance with recommendations to the council.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery put the proposed bag ban ordinance on the agenda, citing that plastic carryout bags are polluting local waterways and beaches. (Sifuentes, 2015)
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.