As of last month, plastic bag bans are illegal in the state of Arizona, and I’m all riled up about it.
Granted, no one can be surprised by anti-environment measures in that deeply conservative state, and there are plenty of pollution issues closer to home that deserve more of my energy. But it still drives me nuts that communities like Bisbee (Arizona’s first and only community to pass a bag-ban ordinance) and a handful of others that were considering similar measures, no longer have the option to say “no” to this plastic, toxic trash.
The issue gets under my skin because together, the plastic industry and conservative politicians have their sights set on much more than rolling back progress in a 5,000-person community in the high desert. In fact, recently the city of Huntington Beach moved to trash the bag ban that protects some of California’s most extraordinary beaches. These rollbacks are stark reminders that our hard-fought victories will always be under assault.
There’s no clearer example of this attack than the deeply disingenuous referendum to overturn California’s groundbreaking plastic bag ban, which will appear on ballots in November. As the Los Angeles Daily News opined:
“The referendum is yet another example of an out-of-state business abusing the state’s initiative process. There is nothing grass-roots about it. The plastics industry paid the signature gatherers, and 98 percent of the money came from out of state. More than $500,000 came from Hylex Poly of South Carolina, the largest plastic-bag manufacturer in the nation.”
Save The Bay and its allies paved the way for the statewide ban. Our victories demonstrate that these ordinances are an effective way to curb pollution; that they don’t harm small businesses as opponents claim; and that shoppers quickly embrace the reusable-bag habit. With California’s statewide bag ban now on hold and under fire, we might take some small comfort that whatever happens in November, the protections we’ve won for the Bay Area remain strong.
But we’d be fools to let down our guard. The plastic industry makes $150 million per year selling plastic bags in California alone, and they are well aware that the Bay Area’s leadership on environmental issues is a bellwether for progress around the state and across the country.
They won’t back down from this fight, and neither will we.
Will you help Save The Bay continue its fight against plastic pollution? To support our work and show your Save The Bay pride, become a sustainer today.