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 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)
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.
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→
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:
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 plastic bag ban was again placed on the Huntington Beach City Council Agenda by Council member Dave Sullivan. The agenda item if approved by the City Council would direct the City Attorney to prepare a ballot measure which would repeal Chapter 5.95 USE OF PLASTIC CARRYOUT BAGS AND RECYCLABLE PAPER of the Huntington Beach Municipal Code (i.e. the Reusable Bag Ordinance) for the November 4, 2014, General Municipal Election ballot to be submitted to the qualified electors of the City of Huntington Beach, California.
A total of 54 speakers chose to speak. Of the 54 speakers, 27 were in favor of putting the issue to repeal the plastic bag ban on the ballot, 20 opposed putting the issue on the ballot, and 7 speakers spoke on a variety of other issues.
Some key issues brought up by speakers who spoke at the City Council Meeting:
The plastic bag ban is a divisive issue in the community and a source of anger.
The Paper Bag Fee is a tax and a bribe to retailers/grocers for their cooperation or silence.
The city took away the right of individuals and businesses to make their own choices of whether or not to use reusable bags.
Results in higher consumer water consumption to wash and sanitize reusable bags.
Many people now shop in surrounding communities resulting in a loss of sales tax.
Plastic bag ban is a feel good policy and government has gone too far.
Put the Repeal of the Plastic Bag Ban on the Ballot and let the people decide.
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.
The movement to ban plastic carryout bags is growing as more and more California communities enact single-use bag ordinances. These ordinances are very similar to one another and go beyond banning plastic carryout bags to implementing a very specific solution. This solution attempts to change the shopping paradigm where shoppers supply their own reusable bags rather than receive store supplied disposable bags to carry their purchases. To ensure that consumer behavior is changed, retailers are required by the local ordinance to charge a minimum fee for each paper bag issued.
By implementing a specific solution, mandated by the government, innovation is stifled and businesses are no longer free to pursue alternative solutions that are in their best interests. Government officials and their staffs simply do not have the expertise and time to investigate alternative solutions to solve the underlying problem or have the motivation to improve retailer customer service, therefore the government mandated solution locks an inadequate and antiquated solution into place. Furthermore, freedom of choice on both the part of retailers and consumers is unnecessarily sacrificed, restricted, and infringed.
At the 5 August 2013 Ventura City Council Meeting, Council Member Brian Brennan and Council Member Carl E. Morehouse introduced a Request for Policy Consideration for preparation of a Draft Single Use Carryout Bag Ordinance. The Request for Policy Consideration was approved by the full city council with no opposition.
The Request for Policy Consideration would direct the staff to develop a draft Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance, determine how the ordinance would be enforced, provide a budget to modify the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON) Single Use Carryout Bag Ordinance Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and return to the City Council in early Fall to consider these items and a timeline for next steps.
At the council meeting, Council Member Brian Brennan introduced the policy consideration and provided a brief history of the development of the BEACON EIR. He then stated that BEACON EIR would be used to create a project that would consist of a single-use Carryout Bag Ordinance and that the city council would have to certify the BEACON EIR.
Council Member Brennan then brought up a viewgraph presentation from two years earlier where a trash study was done for the Ventura River. This was part of the Total Maximum Daily Load Program under the federal Clean Water Act. He proceeded to point out on the some of the slides the amount of plastic including plastic bags that come from storm drains discharges into the Ventura River. He went on to state that there are more than 1300 storm drain inlets in the city and that plastic bottles, plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, paper, biodegradable material, glass, bottle caps, and more come out the storm drains and into the river.
What Council Member Brennan neglected to make clear to the council and audience, is that in the last two years the city of Ventura has spent more than $300K to install more than 200 trash excluders in storm drain catch basins to prevent the trash mentioned in the paragraph above from being discharged into the Ventura River. In addition, the project is still unfinished and that 50 more trash excluders for the Ventura River need to be budgeted for, procured and installed (according to an inside source).
Council Member Carl E. Morehouse spoke next and stated that he wants to see a reduction in litter to make our city look beautiful. Council Member Morehouse then presented several slides showing plastic bags in his neighborhood when walking down from Loma Vista to Telegraph on Day Road and opposite Foothill Technology School. He stated that he knew that the source of this litter was from the flea market held on the Ventura College parking lot.
Most cities with single-use carryout bag ordinances provide an exception for farmers markets and flea markets and charitable organizations. Hence the plastic bag litter shown in the photos from councilmember Morehouse would more than likely not be affected by a plastic bag ban.
Council Member Morehouse also said that the aim of the ordinance is to go after the big distributors of plastic bags. He said that he wants to take the plastic carryout bag out of the waste stream to make our community look better. His goal is to get a handle on the trash and make Ventura a clean city that will attract tourism.
Council Member Brennan then stated that Ventura will not be the first to use the BEACON EIR. The City of Santa Barbara is first with Santa Barbara County following shortly thereafter. City attorney Ariel Calonne mentioned that Santa Barbara has prepared a 9 to 10 page supplemental document to the BEACON EIR.
Council Member Brennan then mentioned outreach programs at the schools, community events such as street fairs, and at stores giving away reusable bags. The City Manager, Mark Watkins, also mentioned that implementation would include outreach to businesses, street faire, passing out bags with the city logo, all the things you do when rolling out a new program. Council Member Brennan also stated that 97% of plastic bags could be eliminated by a bag ban based upon what the storm water professionals working for the city have said.
Council Member Christy Weir then asked if the ban would apply to the really big plastic bags that you would put a bedspread in, to which the reply from Council Member Brennan was No, it only applied to HDPE bags. She then received assurances from other council members that it be clear in the ordinance.
The question that Council Member Weir asked is a very pertinent question. Most city ordinances ban all plastic carryout bags regardless of the type of plastic from which they are made and regardless of the size of the bag. Plastic carryout bags made from plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick are allowed. The thicker, stronger plastic bags – those more than 2.25 mils thick – have special uses for which paper is not a good option or not readily available; for example, very large bags for bedding and other bulky household items (Seattle Public Utilities Commission – FAQs – Bag Ban for Retailers)
There were a total of 16 speakers, 12 speakers for the plastic bag ban and 4 against.
Many of the speakers were from the Surfrider Foundation including one young lady who donned the Bag Monster costume and provided some comic relief and entertainment for the council and the public in attendance. The Bag Monster costume consists of hundreds of plastic carryout bag. The idea for the costume was invented by Andy Keller from ChicoBag, a manufacturer of reusable bags, as a spoof to show how single-use plastic bags are such a bad idea. The spoof is wildly popular with proponents of bag bans.
Speakers for the plastic bag ban cited plastic bag litter and harm to marine wildlife including sea turtles as the main reason why plastic bags should be banned. Some of the speakers for the ban are as follows:
Bob Davidson, a 38-year Ventura Resident stated that the ordinance is not a plastic bag ban but should be retitled as a “Reusable Bag Ordinance” since shoppers could always bring their own plastic carryout bags.
Bill Hickman, the Rise Above Plastics Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation spoke in favor of the ordinance to ban plastic bags and showed a short video consisting of still pictures of littered plastic bags photographed in different locations throughout the city. Mr. Hickman also mentioned that the city should implement the ban and get not only the storm water credits but a beautiful city. He too stated that the ordinance should be renamed the Reusable Bag Ordinance. He mentioned the goal is to target the high volume distributors but would love the boutique shops and restaurants to participate.
Speakers against the ban included the following:
Brian Lee Rencher stated that he too is opposed to the ordinance and that plastic bags are handy thing to have and that he carries them with him wherever he goes, and proceeded to pull out a bunch from a pants pocket. He stated he prefers to live as George Jetson instead of Fred Flintstone and said that the plastic bag ban knocks him back to days of Fred Flintstone. He also stated he would purchase his own plastic carryout bags and use them.
Carla Bonney, a longtime resident of Ventura, and a past Council Candidate also spoke in opposition to the policy consideration. Carla said that she likes using plastic bags and throws them away only after using them multiple times. Carla also reminded the council that trash excluders had been installed in storm drain catch basins to prevent trash from entering the river. She also mentioned that people living in the River Bottom are a major source of trash including plastic bags.
According to an article published in the Ventura County Reporter on September 27, 2012 titled “The Ventura River bottom Diaspora” where more than 47 individuals were escorted from 20 illegal camps in the Ventura River bottom, one hundred tons of trash and debris were removed for a total of more than 300 tons of trash removed from the river bottom in 2012.
Anthony van Leeuwen, a 36-year resident of Ventura, spoke in opposition to the policy consideration. He stated that he too shares the concern of litter. He said that since plastic bags comprise less than 1% or roadside litter, that the litter problem will not be solved by banning a single item. Furthermore, the litter problem need to be solved by traditional methods, including education, but education won’t solve the entire problem, you have to do the hard work of picking up the litter. In addition, he said that since 30% of the 658 million plastic bags will be replaced by paper bags, per the BEACON EIR, and that since each paper bags has the environmental impact of 4 plastic carryout bags, the 30% paper bags becomes equivalent to an environmental impact of 120% of the plastic bags that when added to the environmental impact of reusable bags means that the environmental impact due to carryout bags after the bag ban is much higher than the environmental impact of the status quo.
After all public speakers finished speaking, Council Member Weir asked if the money that grocery stores collect for paper bags could come back to the city to fund litter cleanup programs and could that be looked into. She recognized that this would be a tax subject to a vote.
Deputy Mayor Cheryl Heitmann asked if the paper bag fee is negotiable. She concluded it was and suggested that grocery stores must be benefiting from it in some way since they are supportive of the measure. She also liked the idea expressed by Council Member Weir that a portion of the fee could come back to the city. After a little discussion, a motion was made and seconded and it will go to city staff to investigate as part of the Policy Consideration.
Council Member Neal Andrews said that he objected to the 10-cent fee on paper bags and suggested that it is a form of bribery to get the support of the grocery stores and that if the ordinance comes back with that that he would be against it but for now he is for the policy consideration.
Carl Morehouse thanked all speakers for coming including the opposition.
The policy consideration was then passed with a unanimous vote.