my favorite environmental pet peeve, plastic, is soon to be up for vote in the CA Assembly.
i’ve written before about the plastic island floating out the pacific, because plastic never degrades and the ocean currents sort of wrangle it all into one place. it’s horrific. while i know that not everyone is in the habit of carrying a resusable bag with them (YET), i also find it horrifying that people in stores use plastic bags to carry out items that could easily be carried out by hand – like a single bottle of soda. i see it all the time. or that baggers automatically DOUBLE plastic bags and so you wind up with 8 of them, not 4. public service announcements about plastic being bad for the environment haven’t changed consumer or corporate behavior because there hasn’t been any 1st-person impact to most consumers that they are aware of.
not long ago a bill was passed that set up all kinds of rules about plastic bags (see “Existing Law” summary below), mostly that stores have to provide a way to recycle them, but that really hasn’t done enough. every time i go into a store, the bag recycling bin is completely overflowing. so most consumers take the bag, they use it, they throw it away. there really was no consumer impact, only impact on companies who now have to deal with overflowing bins of plastic in their stores.
so the next step is to create that 1st person impact by instituting a fee. you want a plastic bag for your pack of gum? ok. that’ll be $.25. it’s unfortunately true that sometimes the only way to change human behavior is to make them pay for it. Assembly Bill 68 establishes a $.25 fee for all plastic bags.
this isn’t that groundbreaking, and not some crazy scheme that California has come up with because of the budget crisis – although the revenue will help keep some agencies, like the Integrated Waste Management Board – afloat. Washington, DC placed a fee on them last month, and LA’s ban will go into effect next year if this bill fails. China and Bangladesh have already banned them (saving China an estimated 37 million barrels of oil per year!), and Ireland’s fee reduced use by 90%. For California – one of the most populated states in the US – to establish such a fee would only be logical.
Fellow Californians: Please send a message to our State Representatives asking them to support this legislation!
AB 68, the Single-Use Bag Reduction Act, is an important step to reduce plastic bag pollution in California and the Bay. It will help people make the switch to reusable bags and dramatically decrease consumption of plastic and paper single-use bags by charging a statewide fee for them, beginning in 2010. Revenue generated from the fee will be used for other trash reduction and litter prevention programs. Please support AB 68, a bill critical to achieving California’s goal of eliminating plastic marine debris.
introductory text of the bill below. note that people on public assistance are excused from paying the bag fee, so for those who fight this kind of use-tax because it “punishes the poor” have no ground. also, this bill sunsets in 2013, so it’s a trial. i’d prefer just an all out BAN on the damn things, like China has, but this is a step in the right direction.
(YES I AM A TOTAL ECO-WORRIER. this isn’t about “holier than thou”. this is about “holy shit, we’re screwed.”)
see The Bag vs. The Bay for lots of info on how plastic bags directly affect SF Bay.
btw: the 2nd most abundant ocean pollutant? cigarette butts. those aren’t biodegradable either, and fish and other sea animals eat them and die. :/
ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
Nancy Skinner, Chair
AB 68 (Brownley) – As Amended: March 31, 2008
SUBJECT : Solid waste: single-use carryout bags.
SUMMARY : This bill establishes a statewide fee of 25 cents for single-use carryout bags (bags), of all types, beginning in 2010.
EXISTING LAW :
1)Requires operators of stores (defined as supermarkets and stores over 10,000 square feet that include a pharmacy) to establish an in-store plastic carryout bag recycling program.
The program must include:
a) Plastic bags provided by the store to include a label encouraging customers to return the bag to the store for recycling;
b) Easily accessible recycling bins for plastic bags;
c) All plastic bags collected must be recycled in a manner consistent with the local jurisdiction’s recycling plan;
d) The store must maintain records relating to the program for at least three years and must make the records available to the local jurisdiction or California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) upon request; and
e) The operator of the store must make reusable bags available to customers.
2)Requires manufacturers of plastic bags to develop educational materials to encourage reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic bags.
3)Pre-empts local governments from requiring stores that meet these provisions to implement separate recycling programs or from imposing a fee on plastic bags.
4)Establishes a sunset on the above provisions of January 1, 2013.
THIS BILL :
1)States legislative findings related to bags and their environmental impacts.
2)Defines terms used in the bill, including:
a) “Paper carryout bag” as a bag that contains no old growth fiber; is 100% recyclable; and, contains a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content.
b) “Compostable carryout bag” as a bag that is derived from 100% “bio-based” sources containing no genetically modified feedstocks and meets the American Society for Testing and
Materials Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics.
c) “Reusable bag” as a bag made from cloth or other machine washable fabric, designed for multiple uses.
d) Expands the existing definition of “store” to include chain convenience stores with at least 10,000 cumulative square feet or retail space.
3)On and after July 1, 2010, prohibits a store from providing a bag unless the store charges a Bag Pollution Cleanup Fee (fee) of at least 25 cents per bag and requires that all bags distributed meet the above definitions, including limiting distribution of reusable bags to machine washable fabric bags.
4)Exempts from the fee individuals using the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Woman, Infants, and Children and individuals using the State Department of Social Services Food