Plastic bag makers in denial about California’s ban

A stray single-use plastic bag near Locke in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
A stray single-use plastic bag near Locke in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. mgarza@sacbee.com

It’s a true if gruesome fact that chickens that have been relieved of their heads sometimes run around for a while before they quite realize their irreversible predicament.

That appears to be happening to the plastic bag industry. It would explain why it hasn’t figured out that the ubiquitous single-use plastic grocery bag has just suffered a killing blow. Its days are numbered.

The very day the governor signed a statewide ban on single-use grocery bags, Sept. 30, the industry filed papers to start the process for a referendum. If it qualifies by gathering enough signatures, it will delay the July 2015 implementation of the ban until it can be decided by voters during the November 2016 election.

Then, the industry will spend many millions of dollars to try to trick Californians into thinking that it’s a good thing that billions of single-use plastic bags are clogging up our storm drains and rivers, tangling up in our native flora, filling up the oceans and doing God only knows what other environmental mischief.

Good luck with that.

We don’t think it will work. For one thing, Californians are smarter than the plastic bag makers, especially those from out of state, seem to think. One of the most active opponents of the bag ban, and the force behind the Bag the Ban campaign, is South Carolina-based Hilex Poly. This company would like to continue to reap the riches made by polluting our beautiful state and then leaving the cost of cleanup to us.

Besides, one-third of Californians already live with some type of plastic bag ban and, other than a few cranky pants, get along just fine. The state’s largest city, and the country’s second-largest, Los Angeles, adopted a ban just a few months ago, and joins San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach and Davis, among many others. No one’s going back.

But most importantly – and this is really crucial – we don’t need a law.

Retailers can simply pull the plug now. They never needed legislation to stop providing plastic bags to shoppers and charging 10 cents for paper bags. In fact, some other forward-thinking retailers have already made the change on their own.

What grocers wanted was political cover. Now they’ve got it. No matter what happens with this misbegotten referendum, it won’t resonate as deeply as the news about the ban itself. It was widely covered across state and national media and, trust us, most people have already made the mental adjustment.

Someone should tell plastic bag makers to let go and head for the light. It’s over.