Editorial: Legislature Should Ban The Flimsy Bag Statewide

State lawmakers can’t seem to get a grip on single-use plastic bags. Earlier this year, the Legislature failed to pass a statewide ban on the flimsy, disposable and nearly indestructible carryalls — despite the fact that so many California cities and counties have already done so and that even the grocers’ association was pushing for one.

Maybe lawmakers thought they had already done enough to beat back bag blight by passing a 2006 law requiring stores to make it easier for patrons to recycle their bags instead of dumping them in landfills and gutters.

But it’s unclear if this program has done much to significantly divert the, well, gazillion single-use plastic bags of the last seven years from our storm drains, rivers and oceans. A review by the Associated Press recently found that there has been little oversight of the program. Sure, those bins are in place at the grocery stores, but the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery can’t say how many bags are being stuffed into them and turned over to a recycler. Maybe 3 percent? That’s what was reported in 2009, the last time the state analyzed the reports it requires stores to submit each year.

But 3 percent of 62.3 million pounds of plastic bags (which is the amount retailers said they bought in 2012) is still too many plastic bags floating around out there.

To be fair, counting how many plastic bags are recycled isn’t something the state should do better. Not when there is a much simpler solution: getting rid of them. The next Legislative season begins soon, and what a powerful message it would be if the person who saw the bag ban to fruition at last was one of the lawmakers who opposed it in the past. Sen. Kevin de Leon comes to mind. De Leon, in line for Legislature leadership, has received criticism from some constituents in his Los Angeles district for not supporting the bag-ban bill, though both the city and the county of L.A. have adopted their own, different restrictions on single-use plastic bags. De Leon said he was worried about the jobs of workers who make plastic bags, not about the pressure from the bag lobby. (Funny how Democrats can turn into free-market champions when it suits them.) What a better way for de Leon to show he’s up for a statewide leadership position by championing a law that will turn the tide, finally, on the flood of plastic bags.

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Daily News (10/31/2013)