Plastic bag companies may have won a battle, but they’re losing the war in California. That much will likely – and should – become clear once again Tuesday night when the City Council considers a ban on single-use plastic bags for Sacramento.
The city had completed its ordinance in May 2013 and issued its environmental impact report a year later, but council members had held off in case the Legislature acted. It did, finally passing a statewide ban that was to take effect on July 1.
The plastic bag industry staved off the law by spending $3 million to collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot. The state ban is on hold until voters have their say.
That means California’s cities and counties have to step up, as about 130 already have. Sacramento should join the list. It’s both practically and symbolically important that California’s capital be part of this wave.
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Except for the industry and its defenders, most everyone else knows by now how big of a scourge plastic bags are to the environment – and how small an inconvenience it is to tote around reusable bags instead.
Less than 5 percent of single-use plastic bags get recycled and because they are so lightweight, they litter trees, snag recycling machines, clog storm drains, and often end up in rivers and the ocean.
Sacramento’s proposed ordinance, which would take effect on Jan. 1, follows those in other cities. It would prohibit supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores from distributing single-use plastic bags, and require them to charge at least 10 cents for recycled paper bags, except for customers using government food aid. They also would have to charge for reusable bags, except during limited promotional events.
If the referendum is defeated, the state ban would go into effect. But there’s no reason for Sacramento to wait. The city should do what it can now to stop plastic bags from fouling our environment.