State-Wide Plastic Bag Ban Revived

The Following article was published on The People’s Vanguard of Davis on Jan  25, 2014:

After three unsuccessful attempts to regulate single-use carry-out grocery bags,  a deal appears to have been reached in the California legislature on a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies  state-wide by 2016.

The most recent failure of such a bill occurred on May 30, 2013 when Senate Alex Padilla’s Senate Bill 405- which restricted the distribution of bags considered “single-use”  and required stores to charge a fee for paper or other usable bags-failed a Senate Floor vote 18-17 with 4 senators, including Lois Wolk, abstaining. Three more votes were needed for the bill to pass.

New  legislation, announced at a press conference on Friday, gives new hope to those in support of plastic bag regulations.

The new bill, SB-270 is a joint effort by Sen. Alex Padilla and two of his colleagues,  Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Ricardo Lara, (D-Bell Gardens).

De Leon and Lara not only voted against Padilla’s previous bill, they led the opposition of it’s passage,  stating concerns over the the negative impact it could have on the estimated 2,000 statewide workers employed by the plastic bag manufacturing industry in California.

“The issue matters to the thousands of Californians and their families who rely on the plastic bag industry for their livelihoods. Before we proceed with banning an entire industry, we should understand the full impact and cost of our actions on our local economy and the hardworking people and families that will be displaced. This facility and these workers need to have a voice in a debate that has essentially ignored them.” stated Senator Lara in an opinion piece written in May of 2013

This new legislation, co-authored by the three, helps address these concerns by earmarking $ 2 million from the state recycling funds for use by plastic bag manufacturers.  Allowing manufacturers to apply for loans and grants that would help them retrain workers and  re-engineer their operations to make plastic bags that meet state’s criteria for multiply use.

The new bill also stipulates that reusable bags most contain at least 40% recycled material by 2020 and it would establish a third-party certification of reusable plastic bags to ensure they meet California standards.

In attendance at Friday’s press conference, in support of this new legislations, was the United Food and Commercial Workers, the California Grocers Association, Environment California, Friends of the L.A. River, Mujeres de La Tierra, Californians Against Waste, and Heal the Bay as well as Senator’s de Leon and Lara.

At the press conference Sen. Padilla stated, “SB 270 reflects the hard work and commitment of a broad coalition of business, labor and environmental groups to do the right thing for our economy and environment.”

Padilla continued, “Working with both Senator De Leon and Senator Lara was key to moving this new bill forward. I took their concerns seriously and I believe the language in the bill is responsive to their concerns.”

Senator de Leon stated, “We need to balance the health of the planet with the preservation of people’s livelihoods and recognize the economic conditions faced by businesses in California. This compromise will bridge the gap and help move the economy forward into a green future.”

“Through this proposal we’ve proven that sound environmental policy does not have to come at the expense of good manufacturing jobs – we can have both. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this bill because it protects our environment by phasing out plastic bags while also protecting workers in my district and throughout California,” said Senator Ricardo Lara at the press conference.

“It is a monumental day for California. Three great leaders have come together to support a measure to foster innovation, safeguard businesses and protect California’s treasured natural resources. We are grateful to Sens. Padilla, de Leon and Lara for listening to the concerns of Californians and for bravely standing up for California. They have crafted a measure that will foster a market for innovation and enact consistent rules to protect cities, counties and businesses from the existing patchwork of compliance standards. This measure has the support of labor, business and the environmental community. California’s grocers stand ready to do our part to make California a global leader in the shift away from single-use plastic grocery bags. There is no reason whatsoever now that California cannot finally make this measure a reality,” said Ronald Fong, President & CEO, California Grocers Association.

As a side note, in February of 2013 Senator Lois Wolk introduced Senate Bill-700 an alternative to the statewide plastic bag ban. The bill seeks to give consumers the choice of using their own bag at retails stores or paying a nickel-per-bag fee that would toward local environmental park and projects.

“This measure gives communities and consumers a choice. Local governments get to decide wether they want to participate in the program, and those that do participate will see the proceeds from bag sales go into environmental and parks projects in their community. The proposal would not only reduce wasteful bag use in California, buy generate an estimated $100-200 million in steady annual revenue that communities could use for new parks, litter removal or other environmental projects”,  stated Senator Lois Wolk.

SB 700 was approved by 6-2 vote in the Senate Natural Resources Commission and was approved 6-3 by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in May of 2013.  It is currently waiting to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In November of last year Davis City Council members voted to approve a single use bags ordinance that looks very similar to the one being proposed at the state level.

The city regulations state business shall not provide single-use carry-out bags to a customer at the point of sale.  Business can provide reusable bags for a minimum mandatory10 cent fee.

This ordinance will go into effect on July 1 of this year.

About Michelle Millet

Michelle is a 25-year resident of Davis. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resource Commission and sits on the Executive Boards of the Explorit Science Center and Davis Bicycles! Michelle writes periodic columns for the Davis Enterprise and maintains a blog about her family's efforts to live a zero-waste lifestyle, and works as a part time substitute teacher. Michelle and her husband Mitch live in South Davis with their 11-year old daughter Emi, their 9-year old son Drew, plus their 2 dogs, and 6 chickens.

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