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By Matt Cortina
It may seem like a ban on plastic bags is a minor, or else tedious, bit of legislation that California voters will decide in November whether or not to uphold. However, Propositions 65 and 67 have the ability to make California the first state to enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and other stores.
At the very least, the fact that there are two propositions dedicated to plastic bag bans requires a bit more explanation.
Put simply, Propositions 65 and 67 are competing ballot measures, which would each ratify a previous state senate bill to ban grocery stores and pharmacies from providing single-use plastic bags to its customers. Smaller grocers and liquor stores would be required to do so the following year. Stores would be able to charge .10 cents per reusable, compostable bag.
However, the two propositions differ in where the money is allocated. If Prop. 67 passes, revenue from the .10-cent sales of bags would go back to the stores to mitigate costs incurred from complying with the new rules. It would also provide the plastic bag manufacturers about $2 million to retain jobs and work toward created multi-use plastic bags that would comply with what would be the state’s new regulations.
If Prop. 65 passes, a measure whose petition drive was funded by the industry group, American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA)—essentially a conglomeration of major plastic bag producers—the money would go to a dedicated environmental fund, instead of back to the grocery stores.
APBA claims the funds, to be pooled in the “Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund,” would be distributed as grants for wildlife restoration programs, litter removal, clean water initiatives and more. However, environmental groups, including Surfrider, claim Prop. 65’s supposed environmental fund is an effort to delay the ultimate phase-out of plastic bags. Groups claim the environmental fund won’t generate enough money to have any significant environmental benefit.
“Prop. 65 is sponsored by out-of-state plastic companies from South Carolina and Texas. They don’t care about California’s environment, they just want to confuse voters and distract from the real issue: the need to phase out plastic grocery bags,” wrote Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste in the official ballot opposition.
Yes on 65, funded by the APBA, says the original senate bill that banned single-use plastic bags wasn’t any less influences by outside interests than their measure. They claim the grocery stores stand to gain $300 million in profit by enacting a .10-cent bag fee.
If they both pass, the proposition with the greater number of votes would take effect. If they both fail, the single-use ban on plastic bags would not go into effect. You may be asking yourself: would that be a good thing?
Consider that more than $13 million plastic bags are used in California every year, and that many don’t fully degrade. And it costs about half a billion dollars annually to clean up plastic bags from the state’s waterways and natural areas, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And not to teach an elementary school lecture on the importance of recycling, but plastic bags do massive damage to the environment, harming species and habitats, and fouling the state’s shores.
According to the state, less than 3 percent are recycled. More than 150 California cities and towns have already adopted single-use bag ban ordinances
So is a statewide ban on these bags the way to fix the problem? Is it better to put that money in an environmental fund or send it back to grocers? Californians will decide.
For Prop. 65:
American Progressive Bag Alliance (a plastic bag industry group), California Republican Party
For Prop. 67:
California Democratic Party, Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Patagonia, dozens of environmental groups
Major Contributors for Prop. 67 (as of Oct. 16)
Environment California: $1,718,020.96
Save the Bay Action Fund PAC: $910,524.49
Yes on 67 (Conglomeration of environmental groups, grocery stores and reusable bag makers): $694,062.81
Californians Against Waste: $63,967.42
Major Contributors for Prop. 65 (as of Oct. 16):
American Progressive Bag Alliance: $6,144,383.26