California Plastic Bag Ban: Delayed Georgetown International Environmental Law Review

BethPalkovicTitleCardCalifornia Plastic Bag Ban: Delayed

By Beth Palkovic, Staff Contributor

The groundbreaking law that banned plastic bags in California—the first statewide ban of its kind—has been postponed. Thanks to the efforts of a trade group, American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), which represents the plastic bag industry, the measure will be pushed to a referendum on a state ballot in the November 2016 elections.

The APBA collected more than 800,000 signatures, satisfying the 500,000 threshold needed to put the measure on the ballot.

“The APBA argues that the law eliminates thousands of manufacturing jobs to give a boost to grocery store shareholder profits.”

On the other hand, the ban’s supporters argue that the law protects the environment by reducing littering and pollution. Many California environmental groups, such as California vs. Big Plastic, welcomed the new regulations, citing local bans’ contributions to cleaner water and healthier wildlife.

Last September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270, which banned plastic bags and required customers to pay ten cents or more for paper bags. The ban would have gone into effect this July. To respond to concern about manufacturing job losses, the law also would have provided $2 million for loans to help plastic bag manufacturers convert their businesses into ones that produce reusable bags.

“Though this was the inaugural statewide ban of plastic bags, 138 cities and counties in California have enacted their own bans, which will not be affected by the referendum.”

In January 2014, Los Angeles became the largest city to ban plastic bags. Another city, San Jose, banned plastic bags with its Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance. In 2012, the city conducted a study, which found that the number of bags in storm drains and creeks declined 89 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

So what might California voters say in 2016? According to a poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times in November 2014, 59% of California voters would support the law if it came to a vote, with 34% saying they would oppose it.