California Senate Rejects Plastic Bag Ban

Published July 11, 2013

The California Senate rejected a bill that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic grocery bag. The ban failed despite spirited support from celebrities such as Bette Midler, Jackson Browne, and Rita Wilson.

This was the third time since 2010 the state legislature rejected a bill to ban the grocery bags. If passed, it would have banned the bags from large retailers beginning in 2015 and from smaller stores in 2016. Stores would have been expected to sell or give recyclable paper bags and reusable plastic or cloth grocery bags to customers.

Celebrity Throws Temper Tantrum
After the ban was rejected, Midler excoriated the lawmakers who voted against the measure:

“Plastic bags are a scourge to the planet and everything that tries to live on it,” Midler told the Los Angeles Times.

“Shame on them all for caving,” Midler added.

Protecting Jobs
Kevin de Leon, a Democratic state senator from Los Angeles, said he voted against the bill because his district would lose 500 jobs as a result of the ban. He noted he had been inundated with phone calls by people who live in Malibu and stars who live in Hollywood, whom he chided for opposing public access to beaches in Malibu.

“Plastic bag bans are really about the Hollywood elite who don’t shop in grocery stores vs. everyday people who rely on them for their strength, light weight, and convenience,” said H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “Plus, people frequently reuse the plastic shopping bags for a variety of purposes, which addresses one of the alleged concerns of environmentalists.”

Exaggerated Environmental Impact
Burnett said California’s legislators made the right decision in rejecting the ban. The ban would have provided few if any net environmental benefits but would have destroyed California jobs, he explained.

“Political leaders have exaggerated the plastic bag problem, using figures that are unsubstantiated,” said Burnett.

“Plastic bags make up only 0.5 percent of the waste stream—only half of one percent. So bag bans won’t reduce waste appreciably, and what we’ve found is that in border cities, people shop in other cities without the bans because of the convenience,” he explained. 

A statewide ban would send jobs to other states and overseas to China,” Burnett added.

Plastic Bag Benefits
Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a public policy organization that advocates free market solutions to societal issues, says bag bans are an unnecessary restriction that imposes inconvenience.

“The bags have multiple uses and easily meet the definition of ‘recyclable’ in theory and practice,” Motley said. “So why do a bunch of rich Hollywood leftists who don’t even shop for their own groceries get to inconvenience the rest of us?

“More importantly, by banning plastic bags, California cities are waging germ warfare on their own citizens,” Motley observed, noting food residue—and meat residue in particular—facilitates the growth of harmful bacteria in reused grocery bags.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.