Bag the impractical ban

Aldo Ramírez

A new legislative bill in California will ban single-use carryout bags. As of July 1, 2015, large grocery chain stores and pharmacies will be prohibited from providing single-use carryout bags to customers, with the assumption that this ban will benefit the environment. A year later, on July 1, 2016, the ban will extend to convenience stores and liquor stores.

Thanks to the significantly lowered use of plastic bags that this bill will generate, California’s economy will start to hurt.

Thousands of jobs will be lost due to the cut on plastic bag production. As Lee Califf, executive director of the American Plastic Bag Alliance, said in a news release: “If this law were allowed to go into effect it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets.”

The environmental improvement that this bill could produce is minimal, for single-use plastic bags constitutes less than 1 percent of all visible litter and represents only 0.4 percent of all municipal solid waste, out of the estimated 35 million tons of waste in the state.

This means that both environmentalists and California’s government will still have to find a solution for the other 99 percent of solid waste, which is constituted mostly by compostable organic materials, demolition of debris and paper and other materials that contribute to generate methane — a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2 — as most of these materials go into landfills instead of being recycled.

“A state plastic bag ban saves taxpayers the huge amount of money spent on litter cleanup,’’ said Leslie Tamminen, director of the Clean Seas Coalition. “But what about the annual $1.5 billion, that consumers will pay for the opportunity cost that the plastic ban is going to cause and the $2 million in state-backed loans that this bills also provides to help businesses transition to reusable bags?”

Stores will still have some bags available to the 12.4 million households in California that will be effected but they’ll have to pay for them. The bill states that bags will be sold for 10 cents.

A study conducted by San Francisco county shows that when plastic bags were banned in San Francisco back in 2012, litter actually increased, subsequently also increasing the money spent in litter clean-up.

This bill is not useful. It not only causes a lot of economic disruptions that will effect California households but it also jeopardizes thousands of jobs in the state and also won’t be any help to the environmental pollution that California suffers from which was ironically the primary goal of this bill to begin with.

If California wants to effectively get solid waste pollution under control then the plans made for achieving such goals need to be more critically and thoroughly realistic, rather than far-fetched and ineffective dreams of utopian perfection.