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 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→
Bag Banners have long demonized disposable plastic grocery bags by labeling them as “single-use” plastic carryout bags that, they claim, are only used only a few minutes to carry your groceries home. These claims disputed by citizens who understand that plastic grocery bags are not single-use bags but are reused by consumers for a variety of other purposes. While Bag Banners and public officials only half-heartedly acknowledged such reuse, they steadfastly refused to consider the environmental benefits that such reuse creates. The question “Are Plastic Grocery Bags Falsely Labeled as ‘Single-Use’ Bags?” is an important question that will be examined from several perspectives in this paper. In addition, paper grocery bags and also the newly mandated thicker plastic grocery bags will be examined including the terminology used to describe these bags. We intend to expose the blatant falsehood behind labeling a shopping bag as either single-use or reusable.
Plastic T-Shirt Bags (aka Plastic Grocery Bags)
Plastic grocery bags with handles are actually named “Plastic T-shirt Bags” and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and custom printed logos. They are a time saving convenience for both the retailer and the customer and which offers the retailer a marketing opportunity to advertise their business. For customers, they are not only convenient, clean, and safe, but they also serve a multitude of other uses after transporting their purchases home. So how did these safe, clean, convenient and reused plastic “T-shirt bags” get relabeled as “Single-Use Plastic Carryout Bags” in city, county, and state laws?
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 main reason policy makers give for banning plastic carryout bags is because of the litter impact of these bags upon the environment. Yet, plastic bags comprise at most a miniscule 0.6% of roadside litter; Whereas, Fast Food litter comprises 29.1% of roadside litter. Despite the litter impact of plastic carryout bags, plastic bags produce fewer greenhouse gases than paper or cotton bags. Plastic bags require 70% less energy to manufacture than paper bags. Plastic bags take less than 4% of the water needed to manufacture paper bags. Plastic bags generate up to 80% less waste than paper bags. It takes 7 trucks to deliver paper bags and only 1 truck for the same number of plastic bags. Furthermore, it takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than a pound of paper.
To justify banning plastic grocery bags in favor of paper or reusable bags with their higher environmental footprints, bag ban proponents rely on reusing a bag multiple times in order for its overall environmental impact to be less than a plastic carryout bag on a per use basis. The concept expressed in Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) is that because there would be fewer reusable bags in circulation and since each bag is used multiple times that an environmental advantage is achieved over the use of plastic carryout bags. However, there are some flaws in this concept.
Disposal of plastic carryout bags requires care to prevent bags from becoming windblown litter. The following are some helpful suggestions:
Recycle plastic carryout bags through the Recycle Bin at the Grocery Store.
If your Recycling Bin at the Grocery Store allows for recycling of plastic bags and wraps other than plastic carryout bags, take advantage of this by recycling clean plastic bags and wraps as follows:
Clean produce bags
Dry cleaning bags
Wraps from toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, water bottles, etc.
If your curbside recycling bin allows plastic bags and wraps be sure to follow directions from your waste management company. Some companies require plastic bags and wraps to be put in a clear plastic bag and securely tied.
Never dispose of an empty single plastic carryout bag in a trashcan in a public area. If you cannot avoid this, then simply tie the empty bag is a knot to prevent it from becoming windblown litter.
When disposing of multiple carryout bags use one of the bags to contain the others, and drop off at a recycling container in a nearby grocery store or take home for recycling. If you cannot avoid disposal in a public trashcan, be sure the bundle is heavy enough to prevent it from becoming windblown litter.
Remember, All of us have the responsibility to keep the environment free of litter!
There are many who want to ban plastic carryout bags to help protect the environment, but have never thought through the consequences. One California state legislator stated “the amount of plastics going into the waste stream is pretty large.” What this legislator does not know is that the Plastic Carryout Bag Ban that he favored has unintended consequences that will make matters worse.
A ban typically involves banning plastic carryout bags and charging a fee for each paper bag issued. The fee is intended to motivate the consumer to use reusable bags. The basic idea is that a reusable bag, because you use it over and over, has a smaller impact on the environment than a plastic bag. Continue reading Landfill Impacts of Banning Plastic Carryout Bags→
One of the unintended consequences of banning plastic carry out bags is that more plastic will be headed to the landfill the exact opposite of what proponents of the plastic carry out bag ban want.
California state law (AB 2449) requires retail stores that issue plastic carry out bags at the checkout counter must have a recycling container in or outside each store. This recycling container not only accepts plastic carry out bags, but also other plastic bags and shrink wrap. These include produce bags, dry-cleaning bags, bread bags, newspaper bags and shrink wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, and diapers. Continue reading Plastic Carry-Out Bag Ban – More Plastic Headed To Landfill→