Reality Check for Big Plastic: 60% of California Supports the Bag Ban

Bag Ban Referendum Plastics Industry Pollution Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are a blight on the environment, no matter how the plastics industry spins it. Photo via Anthony Fine on Flickr.

Hot button issues like the passing of recent statewide bag ban – the first of its kind in the nation, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown and the hard work of thousands of like-minded activists (at the state and local level) – never fail to bring out the best and worst in people.

When it was signed into law on September 30th, victory bells rang, birds flew triumphantly through the air, ocean wildlife breathed a sigh of relief, and life went on much as it did before the bag ban passed. Employment rates did not plunge (bag ban opponents claimed they would), and no one except for the grumpiest of grumbly Republicans complained of government overreach. Statewide support for the bag ban remains strong.

Although its impact stands to keep billions, yes, billions of plastic bags out of landfills and our waterways, prevent them from harming the environment for centuries (because plastic literally does not biodegrade), and save Californians millions and millions of dollars collectively each year, plastic bag manufacturers still want the law overturned.

Why? So they can keep making money, of course! If you want a good chuckle, read the comical propaganda manufacturing giants like Novolex have concocted to distract you from their ulterior motives. Some of our favorite bogus statements are outlined in this LA Times’ editorial by columnist David Lazarus, which calls out the plastics industry’s claims and smartly compares its current position to the car industry’s opposition to seat belt laws.

But they aren’t simply spreading misinformation via websites and social media. Bag ban opponents are going full throttle on a referendum to reverse the law. They’ve got street teams all over California collecting signatures (they need 500,000 by the year’s end to make it onto the November 2016 ballot) to reverse all the progress our state has already made. Now, there’s a way to stop them. Californians Against Waste is asking people to report signature gathering using this form. Just last week, Save The Bay spotted a paid signature collector in downtown Oakland outside of our local Rite Aid – and we reported him. CAW will then use this information to put bag ban advocates on the ground to counteract opponents’ efforts, hold media stunts, and inform the public as to why the bag ban is crucial for the health and vibrancy of California.

So yes, even though we’ve won the battle against the bags for now, we have to stay on our toes and keep that victory in our grasp. Help send a message to the plastics industry that they are on the wrong side of history and report any paid signature gatherers here.

9 thoughts on “Reality Check for Big Plastic: 60% of California Supports the Bag Ban

  1. I don’t get how Grocery stores like Food Co and Grocery Outlet, get to sell a thicker quality plastic bags, these companies sell there plastic bags at the register. In counties that already have a plastic bag ban in place. Is there a loop hole? Can they say there selling a reusable plastic bag?

    1. Melissa – yes, these thicker plastic bags are technically considered reusable if they meet specific thickness and durability standards. We share your concern about the continued use of plastic bags (thick or not), but since many cities are required to charge at least 10 cents for those bags (as well as paper), our hope is that people will opt for bringing their own bag instead. We have seen this happen in San Mateo County, where the majority of people are bringing their own bag rather than purchasing paper or thick plastic bags.

  2. I purchased a product at Costco called Food Waste Collection Bags. Certified Compostible. Manufactured in the USA with resin sourced from Italy. They are strong. BioBag Americas, Inc,
    PO Box 309, Palm Harbor, FL. 34682-0289 They are biodegradable, and it states that they may not always be used in communities depending on the food waste practices.

  3. Plastic will not go away. Perhaps a better solution is to encourage only recyclable plastic bags. There are two sides to everything.

    1. Most plastic bags are not recycled. They cause problems in recycling facilities by getting trapped in machines. The few that are recycled (less than 1% in CA) are only used for making low quality products such as pallets or rulers, which usually cannot be recycled themselves and eventually end up in a landfill.

  4. I wrote to the company BioBag Americas, Inc,
    PO Box 309, Palm Harbor, FL. 34682-0289 and I asked them why they don’t expand with this bio bag. The feel strong, the bottoms of the bags are heat sealed. They said part of the ingredient is a resin from Italy. I asked why this bio bag doesn’t have more purposes. It is 3 gallons. Currently I purchase 4 gallon plastic bags to line our diaper pail. I am a caregiver for an elderly man who is in a wheel chair and he has to have diapers. I would like it if the 3 gallon bag holds up in the pail, and also if that material could replace a lot of plastics, such as the base of the diaper and also the base of the bed pads. If all these items were biodegradeable it would be wonderful. Now as I write this I am wondering why Big Plastic if they are so afraid of losing money, why they don’t just switch to a biodegradable type? Most plastic bags are discarded after one use anyway, but they plug up the earth’s resources. So why doesn’t everyone switch to biodegradable?

    1. Unfortunately, biodegradable plastic bags don’t break down in a landfill. If they do, they emit the greenhouse gas methane. That’s why we support policies that encourage residents to bring their own reusable bag.

  5. I have never seen anywhere in the USA where more than 5% of people bring their own bags. even at trader joes.

    1. The plastic bag ban provides incentive for people to bring their own bags. By charging a 10 cent fee to cover the cost of a paper bag, consumers are encouraged to remember their reusable bags.

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