Ban on bags in California

By on October 15, 2014

Picture this scene: you are at the beach in beautiful California, splashing through the waves, and your foot gets caught in a gross plastic bag that is adrift in the water. Or you are fishing and think you’ve snagged something, only to discover it is yet another plastic bag cluttering the environment. Not a pretty picture, right? California legislators didn’t think so either.

On Sept. 30, California became the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery and convenience stores. The bill was passed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who has been in office since 2011. Brown called the bill a “step in the right direction,” according to  the Huffington Post.

“[This bill] reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Both land and water have been polluted by improperly discarded plastic bags, so this ban comes directly from the concerns of environmental activists. These plastic bags can take between 10 to 20 years to decompose, which is a serious environmental issue. “National Geographic” has estimated that 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are used annually worldwide. Approximately 38 million people live in California, so this ban could make a big difference.

Many are in support of this ban, including Kyle Owens, the president of Students for Environmental Action (SEA) at Quinnipiac.

“This seems to be a positive step toward a sustainable future,” Owens said.

This ban is scheduled to be enacted in grocery stores as well as larger chain stores, such as Target and Walmart, by July 2015. Convenience stores and pharmacies are slated to follow suit in 2016. Plastic bags used in the sale of produce and meats are not included in this ban, nor are plastic bags from other retail stores. Grocery stores are also allowed to provide single-use paper bags for a fee of at least 10 cents.

Since plastic bags will soon no longer be an option, Californian shoppers are encouraged to use reusable bags. These bags have already been made available in numerous grocery and retail stores, including Stop & Shop, Wegmans Food Markets, Target and Urban Outfitters.

Many stores also sell reusable bags that are not directly affiliated with their brand. Companies such as Baggu sell reusable bags in a variety of sizes, patterns and colors. They often fold into themselves for easy storage and can easily be tossed in a purse or shopping cart while at the store. They are a simple way to positively impact the environment without much effort.

However, not everyone is happy about this new ban.

“Some Californians are inevitably going to oppose the ban,” Owens predicated. “However, I hope that opposition changes as the benefits are realized and minor inconveniences are forgotten.”

According to “Huffington Post,” some senior citizens are concerned about this imposition on convenience. In stronger opposition are plastic bag manufacturers, many of which are already seeking to repeal the bill.

This ban will reduce the manufacturing needs for plastic bags, thus eliminating thousands of jobs. Lee Califf, the executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, also claims that this ban will “hurt the environment and… [allow] grocery store shareholders and their union partners [to] line their pockets” by forcing consumers to buy either paper or reusable bags.

Only time will tell about how this ban is received and acted upon by the Californian public. A few other states, including New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well as Puerto Rico, are reported to be in the process of similar bans.

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About Jeanette Cibelli

Copyeditor
Sociology Major, Media Studies and Psychology Minor
Class of 2017