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Dirty Politics: Decoding California’s Proposed Plastic Bag Ban

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Urban Market Bags
Published on
September 27, 2016 at 1:37:00 AM PDT September 27, 2016 at 1:37:00 AM PDTth, September 27, 2016 at 1:37:00 AM PDT
** UPDATE! California voters chose to uphold the first statewide ban on single-use plastic or paper carryout bags this week, setting a precedent for other states to follow. This is a momentous step toward reducing waste and protecting the environment. Way to go, California!
In case you are rushing to the polls and don’t have time to brush up on the California ballot measures, Urban Market Bags has you covered when it comes to plastic bags. Here is what you need to know…

Prop 67, the Plastic Bag Veto Referendum, and Prop 65, the Environmental Fee Protection Act, are two measures on the November ballot that, if not understood properly, could threaten our current laws protecting the environment and prohibiting single-use plastic bags.

Vote YES on Proposition 67.

A “YES” on Prop 67 is a vote to ratify our current legislation (Senate Bill 270) which bans plastic bags and directs the 10-cent proceeds from single-use bags back to the retailers to supplement their efforts in providing more expensive recycled or reusable single-use bag options and in educating the customer to bring their own bags. (A little background: the "current" ban in CA was supposed to go into effect July 2015 and has been delayed over a year thanks to plastic manufacturers spending millions…not cool!) Let’s get that legislation reenacted.

Vote NO on Proposition 65.

Prop 65 is the tricky one and is backed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, aka, the plastic bag industry. (The top financial contributors include Hilex Poly Co. LLC, South Carolina; Formosa Plastics, New Jersey; Superbag Corp., Texas; and Advance Polybag Inc., Nevada. Note: these supporters are not even from California!).

At first glance, the proposition appears to be a positive move for the environment because it proposes to redirect the 10-cent proceeds from single-use bags, which would otherwise go back to the retailer, to a state fund managed by the Wildlife Conservation Board. However, since the approval of Prop 65 would move the financial burden of providing more expensive single-use bags to retailers (without compensation from the bag charges)—while doing nothing to reduce their use by customers—it is designed to turn retailers against Prop 67. Also, according to the Legislative Analysts office, if both propositions pass but Prop 65 with more votes, there is a possible interpretation that could prevent the Prop 67 bag ban from being ratified at all. This is a big plastic manufacturers ploy...nice try. We know the truth and it’s vote “NO” on Prop 65.

Who agrees with us (to name a few)?…

SF Chronicle YES on Proposition 67 and NO on Proposition 65
Surfriders Organization YES on Proposition 67 and NO on Proposition 65
League of Women Voters YES on Proposition 67 and NO on Proposition 65
Sierra Club YES on Proposition 67
Environment California YES on Proposition 67
LA Times YES on Proposition 67
San Jose Mercury News YES on Proposition 67
East Bay Times YES on Proposition 67

And why is this so important? Some alarming facts on plastic bags…

· The United States goes through 100 billion plastic bags per year.

· The average lifespan of a plastic bag is 12 minutes and 90% of bags are only used once.

· Plastic bags are toxic and the process of producing them, with millions of gallons of petroleum, is toxic.

· Plastic bags do not biodegrade—instead it takes up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to photodegrade (break up into smaller and smaller pieces). This wreaks havoc on our ecosystem because the small toxic pieces spread into the environment and are hard to trace.

· Around a billion whales, birds, seals, turtles and other sea animals die from ingesting plastic every year.

· Big plastic companies are spending millions to fight bag ordinances and to confuse and mislead California voters on the upcoming ballet. (See above!).

Ok, don’t stress just yet. We are making some headway in the fight against single-use plastics, as 151 California cities and counties are covered by their own bag ban ordinances. This is already effecting great change.

According to Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, "People are realizing we never needed so many bags in the first place."

Prior to California bag bans, Californians used around 19 billion plastic bags a year, and thanks to the bans already imposed, the number has decreased by 6 billion, according to Environment California. On the city level, in Los Angeles, it’s estimated that due to the implemented bag ban, over 2 billion plastic bags are taken out of circulation every year, and that number is growing. San Jose reported that after their bag ban, trash went down by 59% on city streets, 89% in storm drains and 60% in creeks. In Palo Alto, after passing an ordinance in 2011, a 2014 report showed that 23.9% of customers reverted to buying the retailer-offered single-use bags and the remainder used a reusable bag or no bag at all. We need to continue this momentum and help California pass this important legislation statewide.

It’s a lot to untangle and it’s intentionally set up that way. Long story short? Get to the polls on November 8th, vote YES on Prop 67 and NO on Prop 65 and don’t forget to do your part by bringing Urban Market Bags along the way.

Sources: Ballotpedia, California Against Waste, Surfrider Organization, Cal Matters, Environment California,Love Your Earth, World Watch, Heal the Bay, SF Chronicle, East Bay Times, New York Times, Save SF Bay,The World Counts