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.
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 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.
What is the difference between “real” and “phony” environmentalism? A real environmentalist is one who carefully evaluates the impact of environmental actions and considers all of the facts including primary and secondary impacts. In addition, a real environmentalist is willing to consider alternative environmental actions or even to modify the proposed environmental action in order to eliminate or compensate for unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, on the other hand, embraces emotional “feel-good” ideas that sound wonderful but produce unintended and damaging consequences. The phony environmentalist, when confronted with these consequences, is often dogmatic and unwilling to change proposed environmental actions or even to consider alternatives designed to minimize the unintended and damaging consequences, because they are driven by “feel-good” emotions rather than a logical thought process.
The real environmentalist embraces “real science” and the phony embraces “pseudo-science” and “feel-good” ideas that sound good but are not based upon real science. In fact, entire books have been written on the phenomenon of phony environmentalism, such as “Eco-Fads” by Todd Myers and “Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and The Rise of The Anti-Scientific Left” by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell. Unfortunately, phony environmentalism has a track record that ignores negative environmental impacts, wastes resources, and imposes dubious environmental programs on the public through law. This dubious track record has destroyed the public’s perception of genuine efforts to improve the environment.
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.
Voters in Issaquah, Washington narrowly rejected Proposition 1, a ballot measure that if passed would have repealed the plastic bag ban and bag charge. The measure lost by a narrow margin of only 350 votes.
The King County Department of Elections reported that out of 19,302 registered voters in the City of Issaquah, a total of 7,590 ballots (or 39.32%) were returned by mail and counted. A total of 3,595 “Yes” votes (47.68%) and 3,945 ‘No” votes (52.32%) were cast. The “No” vote keeps the bag ban ordinance previously passed by the City Council in place.
Proposition 1 was placed on the ballot by a grass roots group called Save Our Choice. Save our Choice was founded in December 2011 to first oppose the Seattle bag ban and bag tax and is a band of grassroots volunteers dedicated to fiercely defending consumer and merchant choice. Save Our Choice collected more than 15% of all Issaquah voters to qualify the measure for the ballot in October 2013. (Clark, 2014) Subsequently, Mr. Craig Keller, cofounder of Save Our Choice, successfully challenged the ballot title and description in court and won several much needed wording improvements to the ballot title and description.
According to Mr. Craig Keller, co-founder of Save Our Choice, Proposition 1 would have easily won had more grass roots volunteers turned up to help with the effort. Mr. Keller stated that few volunteers came out to help during freezing cold and windy weather prior to the election to stand outside stores handing out “message” bags and “Free Issy” decals before the election. Each “message” bag was a plastic bag with a message to vote “Yes” on Proposition 1 as shown in the illustration.