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article imageBagmakers battle ban promoted by California environmentalists

By Ken Hanly     Jun 30, 2014 in Environment
Sacramento - California retail and grocery lobbies are backing a proposal to ban single use plastic bags. The bill would also add a ten cent fee on paper bags. The measures are supported by many environmentalists.
The ten cent paper bag fee could realize as much as $1 billion in new revenue. Some of the same lobbies have backed 13 failed bills since 2007 designed to reduce or ban the use of the plastic bags. If the new proposal passes California will be the first to obtain a state-wide ban on single use plastic shopping bags.
The purpose of the ten cent fee on paper bags would be to discourage their use rather than provide revenue that would contribute to the profit of groceries. Ron Fong CEO of the California Grocers Association said that stores pay a wholesale price of from 10 cents to 23 cents per bag. The Association supports the bill in order to do away with the confusion for shoppers resulting from myriad local rules.
Regulations re plastic bags are determined locally with more than one hundred cities in California already banning the bags including large cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Some cities already charge ten cents for each paper bag in order to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags. The paper-bag makers oppose the bill because of the ten cent charge to consumers for paper bags.
Cathy Foley, who is vice president of the American Forest and Paper Association sees no benefit in the legislation since it actually discourages the use of paper bags even though they are easily recycled: “Paper bags are made from a renewable resource, are 100 percent recyclable, and have a high recovery rate compared to bags made from competing materials. Taxing them implies that they are part of the environmental problem that plastic bag bans are attempting to solve.”
Environmentalists in California have been trying to ban the bags for years insisting that they pollute coastal waters, harm some sea life, and cost governments millions to clean up. Environmental group Californians Against Waste which supports the ban claimed: “Despite their lightweight and compact characteristics, plastic bags disproportionately impact the solid waste and recycling stream and persist in the environment even after they have broken down,”
The most recent proposal, authored by Senator Alex Padilla, Senate Bill 270 would prohibit single-use plastic bags as of July 2015. After a similar bill failed just last year by three votes when critics claimed that the bill would mean lost jobs in factories making the bags, the new bill would include $2 million to help retrain workers and retool plants that make the bags. The Grocers Association supports this bill whereas it has opposed or remained neutral in other votes. The bill would exempt certain plastic bags such as those for prescription medications or for unwrapped food from bins.
A very useful map of the US showing what legislation has been passed, voted down, or is being considered on a state by state basis can be found at the Bag the Ban website. While the site opposes bans, the map is useful to anyone who simply wants to know what is happening where in the US. Plastic bags can themselves be recycled in many places. This site lists five innovative ways in which the bags have been recycled. Schemes include granulating them to mix with concrete to form bricks and even production of diesel fuel. At present a total of 17 states are debating bans or taxes on the plastic bags. Mark Daniels who heads a plastic bags alliance said the current bans affect only about 4 or 5 per cent of the US population. He estimates the annual revenue of the industry in the US is between $1.5 to $2 billion.
More about plastic bag ban, California, Recycling
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