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?→
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.