After spending all week on a possible bag ban, I took Friday off for good behavior. Just as well: it's still in committee. Jan Perry asked the Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer to report back on the economic impacts of a ban, thereby making official the fact that LA City council will have stretched the distance between "we want to do this" and "we are doing this" to four years. But I saw Kate Linthicum's LA Times story on city council's non-action, and something caught my eye:
The group mantains [sic] that paper bags are just as bad for the environment because of the energy required to produce them. Others have pointed out that even producing reusable bags takes an environmental toll. Bag manufacture Crown Poly, which is located in Vernon, said the ban would threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of employees.
I've seen Crown Poly's employees speak before public meetings before, and I'm curious about their business. The company's big product is the Pull-n-Pak (you've seen it in stores). The site touts it as "the only system that dispenses only one bag at a time to the last bag on the roll, eliminating customer frustration and reducing bag waste." It's the bag in the produce section, on a roll, folded in half and half again across, on a roll often with a triangular spike so you can pull off one bag at a time with one hand. "Pull-N-Pak bags used 50% less raw materials and less energy to produce and ship than standard bags. Due to the pre-opened bags and one bag at a time dispensing, Pull-N-Pak decreases bag waste by up to 20%. All Pull-N-Pak bags are recyclable."
Plastic trade news sources note that Crown Poly's founder has more than a dozen patents for this stuff. So I wonder how, really, Crown Poly might be affected by a single-use bag ban if their major patented product is one that is largely unaffected by existing or proposed single-use grocery bag bans. Nobody's banning produce bags. In fact, some of these bans have specific carve-outs for produce bags, meat bags, bulk foods bags, and pharmacy privacy bags. In other cities, and in the context of farmer's markets, they've thought about these bags, and decided, nah, not a big deal, we don't have to go after 'em.
Another principle Crown Poly cares about is the idea of source reduction. Crown Poly's web copy points out that source reduction is the #1 method of waste management, and brags that "In 15 years, Crown Poly has source reduced over 14.33 million pounds of plastic out of the waste stream from produce bags alone…With source reduction, waste will not be placed in landfills and it reduces the vicious cycle of treatment processing of recycled products; which involves transportation, oil, gas, etc." I like that they talk about this, because I like it whenever anyone talks about a totally unsexy environmental principle. Which, source reduction is.
Thing is, besides using less plastic in the first place, Crown Poly says it uses it better. According to Plastics News, in July of 2007, Crown Poly was doing incredibly well, growing, expanding its 120-thousand square foot facility that takes advantage of Vernon's business friendly tax rates and electricity costs. It had just introduced the Hippo Sak, a plastic bag that can hold groceries usually requiring several non-reinforced bags, saving on double bagging and handling time. Four years ago, Plastics News wrote, Crown Poly had just boosted its workforce by 35 percent during the past 18 months and was "maintaining double-digit growth in annual sales." (I don't know how Crown Poly's doing now, post-financial apocalypse; I can't. It's a privately held company.)
In an article from Supermarket news in 2007 (February 12, to be exact; Liz Parks, "Retailers Finding Ways to Cut Down on Bag Waste"), Crown Poly's one major product that might conceivably come under a Los Angeles bag ban, the Hippo Sak, is described as a high quality reusable/recyclable bag. I can't tell whether the company has tried to get its product classified as a reusable bag, exempt from a ban. It's not clear whether the company could shift to a reusable bag practice, or whether it has investigated it. I don't even know where in California or Los Angeles uses Hippo Saks. Neither does city council, near as I know.
Environmental hearings I go to frequently feature people testifying that their jobs are on the line, threatened by a new regulation. In many cases it's true. But it's worth asking why.