S.F. Chronicle Recommends: Yes on Prop. 67, No on Prop. 65

San Francisco Chronicle
August 26, 2016

Nine years ago, San Francisco banned plastic shopping bags and set off a movement that’s led nearly half the state and its biggest cities to do the same. Skipping the bags at checkout was a hassle at first, but now folks don’t seem to miss the throwaway sacks on a grocery trip.

With so many shoppers adapting to the change, Sacramento passed a statewide ban roping in the rest of California two years ago. But that move is on hold due to the well-funded interest of a handful of bag makers.

They’re spending $5 million to push a confusing double play on the state ballot. Proposition 67 is a referendum on the law, with a “yes” keeping the ban and a “no” vote dumping it. But the industry is clouding the picture further with Proposition 65, which requires that proceeds from a 10-cent paper bag fee go to environmental causes.

Voters shouldn’t be fooled by what’s at stake. In a world doused with everlasting plastic, grocery store bags play a harmful role, winding up on beaches, parks and trees, choking fish and wildlife and even clogging recycling machines. Cutting down usage, especially when cloth or paper bags can be swapped in, makes sense.

Bag makers — in this case four major out-of-state manufacturers — are clearly spooked. If California sticks with banning food-store bags, then other states will join the cause, the industry worries. Also, as consumers grow mindful of the long-term effects of plastic on the environment, the material will be scrutinized and regulated in ways that manufacturers can’t control.

The second measure, Prop. 65, proposes to redirect any proceeds from sales of paper bags that customers buy as a substitute for plastic sacks. Bag makers argue that supermarkets are profiting unfairly from selling paper bags. But the statewide grocers association says the dime-per-bag charge covers their costs, with little left over. The measure plays on phony fears to discredit the overall plastic ban. Major environmental groups are shunning Prop. 65.

Both at the local level and in Sacramento, California has made the right decision on stopping a throwaway habit. Only a special-interest group of plastic bag makers would benefit from turning back the clock. Vote no on Prop. 65 and yes on Prop. 67.