Capitol Alert

Plastic industry hitting TV again to oppose bag ban

Plastic bag makers are hitting the airwaves again in their latest attempt to keep the California Legislature from passing a bill to ban free plastic grocery bags, launching new TV and radio ads scheduled to go live on Tuesday.

It’s part of the end-of-session lobbying campaign against Senate Bill 270, which would prohibit California grocery stores from providing flimsy plastic bags to customers at check-out, and instead require them to charge at least a dime for a paper bag or sturdier plastic sac. Lawmakers reconvened Monday and have until the end of the month to send bills to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Supporters of a statewide bag ban say the policy would help the environment by reducing litter that fouls streets and harms wildlife. They say the bag fees will encourage shoppers to bring their own re-usable bags when they go to the store.

The plastic industry is taking aim at the bill’s environmental motives in the latest ads, saying the “circus in Sacramento” wants to allow a heavy plastic bag while banning the lighter version. The ads also say the bill is a “dirty deal” between lawmakers and grocery stores, which would get to keep the bag fees.

“Say no to their bag scam,” says one ad from the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a plastics industry group.

It’s the second round of ads the plastic industry has launched in California this year to oppose SB 270. The bill by Sen. Alex Padilla was supposed to represent a compromise between plastic bag makers and environmentalists, who pushed unsuccesfully for a bag ban last year. Last year’s version died in the Senate when a handful of Democrats said it would impact too many jobs in their districts or hurt working-class consumers. Padilla’s new version includes a $2 million subsidy to help factories change from making disposable plastic bags to re-usable plastic bags. That subsidy removed some industry opposition to the bill, but major bag makers remain opposed.

SB 270 is now in the Assembly appropriations committee. Padilla, a Los Angeles Democrat, said the ad campaign won’t derail his effort to get the bill through the Legislature.

“I believe both the general public and legislators will see this advertising campaign for what it is: a desperate attempt by the plastic bag industry, that’s primarily out of state, to hold on to every penny of profit they can,” Padilla said. “They’re not going to go down easy.”