In a recent commentary on Assembly Bill 1998, the bill that would ban single-use plastic bags, the author (Gloria Allen, July 23 Tracy Press) states that this legislation is not the way to protect the environment — I am writing to respectfully disagree. This bill will help the environment, and on top of that, it’s good for businesses, too.
Grocers in California currently deal with a patchwork of local ordinances that ban the use of plastic bags at varying degree. This legislation will create a statewide standard that will treat all retailers equally, making it easier to operate in the state. I don’t think making California a more business-friendly state is bad idea — especially in these economic times.
AB 1998 is supported by the grocers, the unions, the environmental community and business groups because it makes sense. Most plastic bags become litter in our streets and waterways, costing cities and counties like ours millions to clean up each year. And despite the fact that there are a number of ways that consumers can recycle their plastic bags, including bringing them back to stores like mine, many of them don’t. In fact, in the past three years — since its implementation in 2007 — there has only been a 5 percent recycle rate, which is a small fraction compared to the nearly 19 billion single-use plastic bags that are distributed each year. This bill will make a much larger impact.
While this bill will eliminate the use of plastic bags eventually, they will be phased out gradually over 18 months, giving consumers time to prepare and adjust — with the overall goal of having consumers switch over to using reusable shopping bags. In an effort to incentivize the use of reusable bags, the bill would also charge consumers 5 cents for every paper bag that they use.
Our stores will not make any money off the sale of these paper bags. In fact, we would prefer to not sell any paper bags at all. On average, paper bags cost retailers as much as 10 cents per bag. This 5 cent cost to the consumer would merely offset the cost we are already paying for these bags.
In the end, it’s clear that the winner here is California’s environment — and, in turn, all Californians. The time for a ban on plastic single-use bags is now, and I urge the Legislature to pass AB 1998.