Editorials

‘No’ on Proposition 65, ‘yes’ on Proposition 67 to ban plastic bags

A pile of washed-up trash, including old plastic bags, sits alongside the Los Angeles River in Long Beach. Two initiatives seek to undercut California’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
A pile of washed-up trash, including old plastic bags, sits alongside the Los Angeles River in Long Beach. Two initiatives seek to undercut California’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Associated Press file

Few forms of trash are more pernicious than those disposable plastic bags that clog storm drains, choke sea life, and litter landfills, parks and beaches. Californians have been trying to get rid of them for nearly a decade.

But they won’t go away – and not just biodegradably speaking. After California passed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in 2014, the plastics industry put two, count ’em, challenges to the law on the Nov. 8 ballot. Propositions 65 and 67 aim to delay, complicate, repeal and generally undercut the curtailment of plastic bag use in this massive market. They’re tricky, and three out of four possible votes on the two would kill or cripple California’s bag ban.

So Californians must pay attention and quash this cynical effort. Here’s the shortcut: Vote “no” on Proposition 65 and “yes” on Proposition 67. Got it? “No” on the first plastic bag measure, then “yes” on the second one.

California’s ban came after more than 100 cities and counties passed ordinances seeking to curb plastic bag pollution. Some of the worst was in the ocean, where the flimsy sacks kill sea turtles and congeal with other debris into islands of plastic filth.

Plastic bag manufacturers fought the movement, aided by grocers, who feared their narrow margins might not absorb such a big change in the way they did business. The 2014 law ended that with a compromise that let grocers charge customers a dime for paper bags, and keep the money to cover their costs.

Plastic bag makers cried foul, and spent more than $3 million to put a referendum on the ballot, exercising a provision in the state constitution that allows a popular vote on a new law before it becomes effective. That referendum is Proposition 67.

As a backup, however, they also spent heavily to put Proposition 65 before voters. It would redirect the grocers’ money into a new environmental fund that bag makers say would be more transparent. But without that money, the state ban would be expensive for grocers to implement in parts of the state still not covered by local measures. That’s why a “no” on 65 is important: If both measures pass and Proposition 65 gets more votes, it could supersede the existing law.

It’s unfortunate that bag makers – most of them headquartered outside of California – would go to such trouble to confuse voters. It shouldn’t be this hard to stop polluting a state. But voters who care about the environment and don’t like to be manipulated should send a message. Let’s get this cleanup underway.

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