Plastic Bag Ban In California Draws Criticism From Industry

EcoWatch has some startling statistics about plastic bags. According to the environmental website, 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide and one million are used every minute. In the Los Angeles area, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments, including plastic bags, go into the Pacific Ocean every day. Almost every piece of plastic ever created by humanity still exists in some form.

These kinds of concerns are part of what led California to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the state will now require merchants to charge for a single-use paper bag or sell reusable plastic bags to consumers. Although environmentally concerned consumers may applaud the law, some commentators are claiming the initiative could have some unexpected effects.

Chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance Mark Daniels told CNBC that the charge hurts those who are already struggling financially. CNBC clarified that although those on public assistance will not have to pay for the paper bags, the exemption does not apply to those who are experiencing financial difficulties while not on welfare. Daniels also claimed grocers will make a profit off the sale of paper bags. Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, said consumer use of their own bags increases shoplifting.

CEO of the California Grocers Association Ron Fong supports the new legislation and denies any grocers will see an increase in profit. Because local ordinances have already existed in California that limited the use of plastic bags, retailers have experience with customer behavior and can respond appropriately.

If retailers do save money as a result of the plastic bag ban, some want it to be put to good use. The Wall Street Journal reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers union supported the ban because the organization wanted money redirected to worker training and food safety initiatives.

US News is reporting that the plastic bag industry is planning to lobby for a referendum vote on the issue to be held in 2016. The group pushing for the referendum is the American Progressive Bag Alliance. A representative from the campaign told US News the plastic bag industry supports 38,000 jobs, 2,000 in California, and the industry plans to spend $3 million in the next few months to promote its initiative, specifically for canvassers to get the referendum on the 2016 ballot.

An environmentalist who supported the ban said the grocery bag industry has the right to be concerned. Mark Murray of the Californians Against Waste implied to The Wall Street Journal that California’s state-wide ban might just be the beginning.

“I think they’re right to be worried that the end of the plastic grocery bag is in sight. With the success in California, I suspect this policy is going to sweep across the country.”

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