California: Plastic Bag Ban Back

CALIFORNIA POLITICS - Asm. Mark Levine, the upstart challenger from Marin County who was elected to the Assembly, is now carrying the plastic bag bill that former Asm. (Now Congresswoman) Julia Brownley carried in the previous session.  The bill would start in 2015 with a gradual process.


Under the proposal, most grocery retailers could no longer provide thin plastic bags for customers starting in 2015. For 18 months, retailers could offer paper bags made of recycled materials or reusable plastic bags for customers to bag their milk, eggs and other groceries. 

Starting in July 2016, grocery retailers could only provide reusable plastic bags, which many stores already offer at a fee. The new proposal, Assembly Bill 158, also leaves room for stores to provide recycled paper bags at a charge.(SacBee)  

Plastic bags are really bad for the oceans, there really isn't any disputing that.  In fact, in some areas of the ocean, plastic trash is far more present that plankton and other small animals that the ocean depends on as the basic building block of marine life. 

Yet paper bags really aren't much better.  They also live for a long time in our landfills, as biodegrading takes a really, really long time in landfills that do not provide air and water flow. Recycling paper bags is a better option, but even that ignores the high cost of energy and transportation of the paper bags. It turns out that paper bags require a lot of energy to produce. 

In the end, we really need to adjust to using less resources. Bags are a small part of this. Reusable bags are by far the best option, and Californians especially, with our long coastline, need to adapt to that reality. However, it should be pointed out that bags are a smaller percentage of waste than the packaging that our food gets dressed up in at the grocery store. But hey, you know what doesn't come in a lot of packaging: fresh food! Good for you and the environment, double winner! 

Asm. Levine's bill is a good start. The plastic and chemical lobbies are sure to bring their forces to bear against it, as they did in the last session. Hopefully this time will be more successful than the last time this bill died in the Senate.


(Brian Leubitz holds a law degree from the University of Texas and a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P) from the Goldman School at The University of California, Berkeley. He is the publisher and editor of Calitics.com where this piece was first posted.) –cw




Vol 11 Issue 8

Pub: Jan 25, 2013