In 2014, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 270 to ban highly reused and recyclable plastic bags statewide and to mandate grocers charge customers at least 10 cents for each paper or thicker plastic reusable bag provided.
The law was sold by proponents purportedly to reduce waste and litter in California and to improve the environment. No matter that according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, plastic bags account for just 0.3 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste, or that in legitimate litter composition studies plastic retail bags typically come in at less than 1 percent, or that the alternatives to plastic bags actually have a greater environmental footprint.
Like so many issues in Sacramento, facts and science left the Capitol building during the debate – replaced by special interests lobbying for hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars and political victories to grease their fundraising machines.
Immediately after SB 270 was signed, a coalition of taxpayer groups and community leaders – led by an American manufacturing and recycling industry with 2,000 jobs in California – gathered more than 800,000 signatures to qualify a referendum on the law, putting the decision to uphold or repeal it in voters’ hands on Nov. 8.
That’s what’s at stake with Proposition 67. A “yes” vote upholds a job-killing, environmentally dubious $300 million-a-year giveaway to corporate grocers. A “no” vote repeals the law and sends a message that California voters reject politics as usual in Sacramento.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance also worked hard to qualify Proposition 65, given that 82 percent of Californians, whether or not they support a bag ban, believe that fees should go to a public purpose, not corporate profits.
By voting “yes” on Proposition 65, voters can ensure any money associated with SB 270 goes to an environmental fund administered by the California Wildlife Conservation Board. The board will issue grants toward drought mitigation, recycling, clean drinking water, parks, beach cleanup and litter removal. City and county governments with existing bag bans and fees would also have the option to ensure bag fees go to the same state environmental fund, rather than to grocers.
The people of California have every right to expect that any charges on carryout bags they are required to pay are dedicated to protecting the environment, not enriching corporations. So in the event voters approve Proposition 67 and uphold SB 270, then passage of Proposition 65 diverts hundreds of millions of dollars that would have gone to corporate grocers to an environmental fund.
Put simply, a “no” on Proposition 67 will repeal a deeply flawed law that started this whole mess, and a “yes” on Proposition 65 will help the environment and reject a massive Sacramento special interest giveaway at taxpayers’ expense.
Lee Califf is executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, the trade association representing U.S. plastic bag manufacturers and recyclers. He can be contacted at LCaliff@plasticsindustry.org.