Editorial: Make California bag ban permanent

From East Bay Times (7/20/2016)

It’s a shame that Californians are having to vote on two plastic bag ballot measures — Propositions 65 and 67 — that should have been tossed in the garbage long ago.

Both represent the plastics industry’s efforts to undo the state’s first-in-the-nation plastic bag ban. Don’t fall for their twisted logic. Vote yes on Proposition 67 upholding the ban on plastic bags. Vote no on Proposition 65, which would require grocery stores to direct proceeds from paper bag sales toward an environmental fund.

Proposition 65 deserves consideration as one the most disingenuous ballot measures in state history. It’s crucial that California voters understand that key environmental groups oppose Proposition 65, even though it could supply millions of dollars for some of their pet causes. That’s how bad it is.

They know the real intent by the plastics industry is to entice grocers to give up their support for the overall ban. The law as written by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown allows grocers to keep the money from sales of paper bags to help offset the extra costs they incur from the ban.

“Bag makers will spend big to try to buy this election, but in the end common sense will override this polluting industry’s vast expenditures,” said Kathryn Phillips, executive director of Sierra Club California.

The plastics industry will argue that rather than ban plastic bags, they should be recycled instead. We tried that. Despite the state’s green reputation, Californians recycled only 3 percent of them, meaning an estimated 15 billion were sent to landfills, or worse, scattered throughout our highways, streams, beaches and neighborhoods. Taxpayers spend an estimated $400 million trying to prevent litter from polluting our waterways, and plastic bags are one of the worst culprits.

Bag bans work. San Jose conducted a study before and after it enacted a citywide plastic bag ban, and it showed that trash had been reduced by an eye-popping 59 percent on city streets, 89 percent in storm drains and 60 percent in creeks.

Opponents of the ban argue that manufacturing plastic bags takes less energy than paper bags. But they fail to mention that the billions of plastic bags require more than 2 million barrels of oil in the manufacturing process.

More than 115 cities and counties, including San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles already have ordinances. They deserve credit for having the vision and courage to prove they work. But a statewide ban is far preferable and more effective.

California can re-establish its claim as a national environmental leader. Vote yes on Proposition 67 upholding the ban on plastic bags and no on Proposition 65’s misguided effort to direct proceeds from paper bag sales.