California Senate Rejects Plastic Bag Ban Bill

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California Bill AB 1998 (commonly referred to as the Plastic Bag Ban Bill) was rejected by the California Senate on Tuesday after it failed to receive the two-third majority vote. It would have been the first state-wide plastic bag ban in the U.S.

San Francisco made history when it became the first city to officially ban plastic shopping bags in 2007, making it a pioneer of a rapidly growing trend.

AB 1998 would have prohibited any grocery store or other large retailer from distributing plastic bags to consumers and required a fee of at least 5 cents for every paper bag distributed.

Multiple cities in California have already banned plastic bags at a local level, including San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto. With the failure of AB 1998, Los Angeles County and several California cities will attempt to pass bag bans.

The bill had hundreds of opponents, including industry groups citing  a loss of jobs and the requirement of state funds to provide “bag police.”

“We congratulate Senate members for discarding a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California’s litter problem and would have further jeopardized California’s already strained economy,” said Tim Shestek, senior director of State Affairs for the American Chemistry Council.

“Plastic bag makers look forward to working with grocers, legislators and environmental groups to develop workable, effective legislation that enables consumer choice, promotes recycling education and encourages a healthy environment and economy.”

AB 1998 was originally submitted by Santa Monica Assemblymember Julia Brownley, who amended the bill last week in hopes of addressing critic’s concerns. This included allowing grocery stores to maintain their plastic bag recycling bins and creating a $2 million program to improve the durability of reusable shopping bags.

After its defeat, Brownley called it “a sad day for California.” This is the third consecutive year that a California bill that would have enforced a ban or tax has failed.

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  • Wes Womack

    How long do we have to get outnumbered by the Chemistry Council? How can we silence this bs about losing jobs because we’re not using plastic bags? The bags aren’t even made here…

    These things have got to go. If Mexico City, most of China, and parts of India have ALREADY banned them, what are we missing California? I’m ashamed that the rest of the world understands this issue and the damage these things are doing to land and ocean environments, and for some reason we continue to let chemical lobbyists talk over the top of positive, sustainable change. When you wake up one day and realize CA is a broken down, outdated shadow of its former innovative self, mark this day in your memory.

  • Dale Larson

    I currently work in the plastics industry and believe there is a lot of misconception around the enviromental impact on plastics vs paper. It takes 5X’s the endery to produce one paper bag. Not to mention the acid rain outputs to create paper. The carbon foot print to market is also considerably higher. Paper bags take up 5 times the space and net weight is also greater, requiring more trucks to bring them to market. Plastics manufactures use recycled resins in their production and scrap is reused to eliminate waste.
    Not to mention that plastic contians harmful bacteria from the handler. it does not allow for waste to seap through it. I strongly agree that we as consumers need to be vigilent to support recycling programs in our region and find ways to not be so wasteful. Research in the Canadian market shows that plastic bags are recycled more than paper!

  • Rosalie Juchli

    I understand your efforts to ban plastics..by the way it is my understanding some ot the recycled plastics are being used in the medical field, thats a good thing right??
    Some suggest going back to using paper products,
    thousands of trees have been and are being destroyed to make the paper products, ravishing
    our forests upsets the complete Eco system, it is not only the trees that are being destroyed
    it is also the habitat of many animals and yes, insects that are beneficial to our Eco system.
    Maybe one should consider banning disposable diapers, they are not biodegradable and stay
    in our landfills for an eternity. I for one, my 2 sisters and brother raised our children on cloth
    diapers..a young gal asked me the other day..”But what else is there to do & use for a working
    Mom..besides disposable diapers”? My comment was” Cloth diapers,and diaper service “!!!
    How many people that are on the “Green Theme” have and are using disposable diapers right
    now? I bet there are hundreds if not thousands…
    Traveling across the U.S. I saw Coal Plants in New Mexico & Arizona that were polluting the
    air so the so called “Greenies” can drive their electric cars, they think electricity just falls out
    of the sky, they have no clue!
    Some of the Bio-fuel is made from a tree that is habitat to the Red Orangutan, if the destruction
    of this tree continues the Red Orangutan will be extinct in 10 years! That is only one species
    of Orangutan, there are 4 more species that are in danger while the rain forests are being
    destroyed!! Stop focusing on just ONE issue and look at the Big Picture!!!

  • noman

    The solution is easy…charge a redemption value. The plastic bags are better than paper as long as they don’t end up in landfills and waterways. There are many ways to reuse and recycle them, but if you want to threaten with a stick, you need to dangle a carrot as well.

  • alex may

    It’s not necessary to choose between paper and plastic. Many people use their own reusable shopping bags. They can be made of canvas, netting, or other fabric. Coastal states especially should do away with plastic throwaway bags as many of them end up in the oceans regardless of what the law says. We were blessed with this planet. Let’s take care of it.

  • Pam Kutscher

    I was hoping a plastic bag ban in California might spread the the rest of the country–too bad it didn’t pass. The ultmate solution in the “plastic or paper” battle is reusable cloth/canvas/mesh bags. These are washable and reusable many times. I agree with the concerns about paper bags–the paper industry is highly polluting and that needs to be cleaned up. Also, the pulp fiber needs to come from sustainable sources. The biggest issue we face with ANY product is volume–many things are rather benign with occasional use but become environmental nightmares when scaled up for mass production and use. We DO need to look at the big picture.

  • Linda A.

    Reusable grocery/shopping bags are all well and good for those who have elephantine memories and ALWAYS remember to bring them to the store with them and then actually remember to take them INTO the store with them and actually USE them, but, most of us don’t, I being one. I admit that I use the “good” ol’ disposable plastic grocery bags, BUT, I recycle them just as I recycle my aluminum cans. The only thing is, unlike my cans, I don’t get cash for recycling my bags, I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. The ONLY way the plastic bags are going to stop being used and reusable bags are going to be used more is if stores stop making them available. If the stores stop making them available, soon the makers of the bags will stop making them because they’ll no longer be profitable to make. In 1972, I was in Finland. There, when you went grocery shopping, you had to bring your own reusable shopping bag(s) otherwise you would have no way to get your groceries home because the stores didn’t provide bags. That was 38 YEARS AGO!! We are SO far behind the times in this country. But then again, the Finnish politicians don’t have to contend with corporate lobbyists the way our politicians do, either.

  • Sue

    Hey Trey,

    Great article! This could have been a major milestone if the law had passed. Only a small percentage of people actually make a conscientious effort to return those plastic bags they get from the supermarkets. I am among the few who think that recycling those bags matters. There are some that use the cloth bags which you can purchase at the grocery stores, but even those people are among the minority.

    I think that there are many plastic bags that just get tossed in the garbage because most people can’t be bothered returning them or there are no incentives for them to do so either.

  • http://www.petsgonegreen.com Cedar Dog for Mayor (transcriber Kathy)

    Terry could you email me the 911 position paper with arguments on this legislation?
    It would be helpful in writing about it.

  • Jared

    Linda, I applaud you for your recycling efforts, and wish that more people were like you. But is remembering to bring a bag along with you to the grocery store any harder than remembering your purse? I don’t see it as being any more or less difficult to remember it if it is a necessity to bring along with you. There are many places that have banned not only the distribution, but the manufacturing as well. China is one of these places and they did it seven years ago. They were using 3 billion plastic bags a day, because of this one countries ban alone 7,665,000,000,000,000 bags have not been produced. Recycling is good for the time being, but it shouldn’t be the permanent solution as it often uses more energy to recycle 1 bag then it did to make it in the first place. This is in my opinion a needless waste of energy, as a reusable bag would be made once and used for a lifetime. I think the U.S. needs to get with the times and make some strides to protect the environment much more-so than we are doing now. As Robert Redford once said “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?”

  • don

    What a bunch of idiots… whats next lets just ban food because we throw to much away or better yet lets pass a food trash tax. Oh and why don’t we ban cars? or planes? this is stupid…..