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It’s In The Bag

Kids, Don't Try This at Home

Kids, Don’t Try This at Home

Ah, yes, I still hear them cheering when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the first-in-the-nation statewide ban on plastic bags. Saying, “We’re the first to ban these bags and we won’t be the last,” Brown crowed that it was the miracle cure that would clear our landfills and beaches of the noxious bags.

I hate ’em. Plastic bags, I mean. They are not environmentally friendly and are a threat to wildlife. My wife and I do our best to bring our own bags to the store when we shop. It doesn’t always work out, though. Sometimes, we miscalculate and wind up with a mix of our own and the plastic thingies from Albertsons. And, paper bags would be better all around.

And, up until recently, it looked like we were all headed in the same direction come this July 1st, whether we liked it or not. That was the scheduled date of implementation for major grocery stores and pharmacies to comply with the law by getting rid of plastic bags. Of course, they could still offer you a paper store bag.

That paper bag would cost you ten cents, however. My wife and I found out how this works last year when we took a road trip to Petaluma (don’t ask). On the way, we stopped at a San Francisco Trader Joes. After marveling at the escalator just for shopping carts, we shopped for groceries. On checkout, the cashier asked for our bags.

“Bags?” I mumbled. “We didn’t know….”,  shuffling my feet and thinking we would have to carry out the groceries in our hands. Not to worry. The kindly cashier was happy to produce a bag – at the cost of ten cents. Thus, we were introduced to the San Francisco local bag ban.

Now, it looked like what was good for San Francisco, Huntington Beach and a host of other cities in and out of Orange County, would be good for the entire state.

That is, until the plastic bag manufacturers got together and collected signatures. Enough signatures -over 800,000- were gathered within the time frame and submitted to the state. The state has certified the referendum and it will now appear on the 2016 ballot.

This particular law has local ramifications, of sorts. Durabag Company Incorporated, is located in Tustin, off Redhill and Edinger. It is a small business by most standards but they have been around awhile and they employ a number of people in the manufacture of plastic bags and paper materials. According to a press release last year, Durabag joined several other local bag manufacturers in a “Bag the Ban” alliance to squelch the bill prior to enactment. According to the alliance, 2,000 jobs are at stake.

Well, I suppose sacrifices have to be made although I wouldn’t necessarily include jobs of mostly lower-middle class workers in that. Yes, durabag (and probably the other manufacturers) produce other goods, notably paper bags and boxes. But, there would still likely be some loss.

Then, there is the ten cent a paper bag tax fee incentive to bring your own bags. I suspect that, unless you are already environmentally prone to supplying your own bags, a user fee is not going to do much to coerce you. And, there is the question as to whether the ban really works. If it does, why are a host of cities who enacted local bag ban ordinances now contemplating repeal?

Our own Huntington Beach, saw their city council chamber filled with supporters and detractors in a January meeting. Their ban could be lifted in May if some councilmembers have their way. Other cities in California and across the nation (in cities a lot more environmentally conscious than ours) are considering the same move to repeal their bag bans.

In any case, it looks like we are safe from the statewide bag ban for now. With the Secretary of State’s certification of signatures, the issue is headed to the voters in 2016. It is anyone’s guess whether the law will be overturned. And, even if it is, other cities could join the more than 100 California communities that have enacted local ordinances to ban plastic bags.

Could Tustin be on that list?