Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Plastic bag bans, taxes moving in U.S. cities, if not in California

Sam Mendes might find that a plastic bag provokes an unexpected emotional reaction - finding the miraculous in the mundane, as the character Ricky does in American Beauty - but more and more cities might not agree.

USA Today is checking in on plastic bag bans around the country. California's efforts recently went down to ignominious defeat. But the national scribes point to bag bans and fees in Westport, Connecticut, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, D.C. and cities in Washington and Alaska as evidence of a groundswell of sorts. 

"This issue is not going away," says Ronald Fong, CEO of the California Grocers Association, an industry group that backed California's proposed ban. "The future is in reusable bags."

The American Chemistry Council fought hard in California: when AB 1998 went down, the ACC argued that the law would have killed 1000 jobs statewide, not to mention bloating the bureaucracy, with a "hidden tax." Still, the Wall Street Journal recently reported on how a 5-cent tax on plastic bags there has yielded "a big change in behavior with little evident griping."

Heal the Bay's Mark Gold used the lost battle at the state legislature to vow victory in a greater war:

The coalition’s efforts were not rewarded last night, but they will be rewarded in the near future.  Our efforts moved the needle on social change dramatically.  The days of plastic bags at grocery and retail stores are numbered.  This became a national story.  Even a global one. This was the most controversial bill in the legislature. We can’t rely on the state political system to effect the change we need, namely an end to the marine debris crisis.

I'm not thinking this is over yet. But do you see a national trend coming?