Los Angeles implemented a new ban on single-use plastic bags in the new year, and the rest of the state could be next, according to the Los Angeles Times. If California becomes the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, it will set a much-needed precedent for the rest of the nation.
Under the new bill proposed Friday, plastic bags would be prohibited in California grocery stores beginning July 1, 2015, which would eventually extend to California pharmacies and liquor stores beginning in 2016. The bill would also require Californians to pay at least 10 cents for recycled paper bags or reusable plastic bags.
This isn’t the first time that California legislators have tried to implement such a ban. Last year, California state Sen. Alex Padilla sponsored Senate Bill 405, aiming to phase out single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies. Like the several attempts before this, those criticizing the bill for killing jobs and being an economic burden lobbied against it, causing the legislature to narrowly fold on the bill.
Padilla’s last attempt to pass a plastic bag ban in February 2013 was met with opposition led by Sens. Kevin De Leon and Ricardo Lara. This time, however, Padilla is working with his former opponents. The new bill, co-authored by De Leon and Padilla, reworked the previous bill to address the previous concerns of its opponents.
Under this proposal, $2 million would be set aside to retrain plastic bag industry workers so that they could begin working in recycling jobs. Moreover, it would begin requiring that reusable bags be at least 20 percent recycled (set to eventually increase to 40 percent), establishing a third-party certification of reusable bags to ensure they comply with California standards.
Plastic bag bans are already in effect in nearly 90 cities and counties in the state. With a third of Californians abiding by the ban, it is difficult to argue that such a regulation would be impossible to enact — it’s already happening. California needs a bill that finds a balance between those concerned with the economic conditions of the state and the environmental wellbeing of the state, and this proposal does just that. Plastic bags are cost-ineffective, forcing the state to spend millions of dollars in cleaning costs and millions of barrels of oil to make these flimsy bags in the first place — money that could otherwise be spent in other areas of need, such as education.
This ban would also diminish the burden these plastic bags have on our environment. Of the billions of bags used every year by Californians, most of them end up littering the sides of our roads and the shores of our oceans. Executive Director of Californians Against Waste Mark Murray said that the bill ultimately provides a solution to this environmental dilemma.
“This bill is going to eliminate some 20-billion single-use plastic bags that become litter,” Murray told the Los Angeles Times.
Critics of the statewide ban say the bill will burden low-income and working-class Californians who can’t afford to pay the 10-cent charge on paper bags. These criticisms, however, fail to acknowledge the fact that such a bill isn’t meant to transfer Californians’ use of plastic bags to paper bags. Rather, it’s meant to wean shoppers off using these temporary bags in the first place. Providing durable, reusable plastic bags that shoppers can use over and over (many of which cost less than a dollar) does just that.
Cities across the nation, from Washington, D.C. to Palo Alto, Calif., have placed bans on single-use plastic bags, yet no state has enacted a statewide ban. California should take this opportunity to lead the nation in a movement that has already built up so much momentum. The success of this policy has already been proven in cities nationwide.
Conclusive data shows that these bags ultimately do more harm to our environment and economy than good. It’s high time that California acknowledge it.
Yasmeen Serhan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan.