SB 270 will ban single-use plastic bags in California

State Hornet

Gov. Jerry Brown says that he “probably will” sign Senate Bill 270, the proposed ban on single-use plastic bags. With the amount of plastic bags adding waste to the environment, signing this bill is a move in the right direction.

Brown says there are around 50 cities in California that already enforce a plastic bag ban. If passed, California would be the first in the nation to implement a statewide ban. This a huge step in battling the problem with environmental waste.

Los Angeles county implemented a ban on plastic bags earlier this year in January. According to the Los Angeles Register, Junderpal Bhanda, an L.A. Sanitation environment specialist said compliance among large grocery stores is 100 percent.

Paper bag usage has decreased 95 percent due to the 10-cent fee required to purchase them. The fee seems necessary even though it is degradable because it creates incentive for shoppers to bring out their reusable bags.

In 2012, only 12 percent of used plastic bags, sacks and wraps were actually recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The remainder ends up as litter or in landfills where it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. When plastic bag waste makes it to the ocean, it may never degrade.

National Geographic reports that the vast majority of marine debris is plastic. Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of plastic in a single square kilometer from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean.

It is a detriment to marine life.

Loggerhead sea turtles often mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish, their favorite food. The plastic and garbage combined in the Patch block out sunlight, threatening communities of plankton and algae, a food source for many fish and turtles.

The demand for single-use plastic bags is perpetuating this environmental devastation.

“On balance, this will protect the environment. But at the same time, we’re doing it in a very standard way that will not disrupt business in California,” said Brown in an article by written by Alexei Koseff of the Sac Bee.

If signed, the ban will be effective in grocery stores and pharmacies July 2015. Convenience stores will be given time to implement the law later that year. Paper bags will be available for a 10-cent fee, encouraging the purchase and use of reusable shopping bags.

Reusable shopping bags are the perfect solution. Although paper bags are degradable and recyclable, reusable shopping bags cut down on waste altogether. Unlike paper bags which can withstand more than a couple uses, reusable bags are often durable, washable and can be used for months or even years.

Some people have argued that the bag fee will target and “punish poor people.” This is untrue.

The bill requires grocery stores to provide anyone who qualifies for food stamps or a nutrition program like WIC with free paper bags or reusable bags.

Reusable bags are no new concept for Californians. Grocery stores and department stores have made them available and easy to locate at checkstands.

Even clothing retailers like Ross and Forever 21 have been encouraging the use of reusable bags by selling trendy and inexpensive shopping bags next to their cash wraps. Urban Outfitters simply eliminated plastic bags and provides its customers with complimentary reusable bags for their purchases.

Reusable bags and paper bags have been an option for shoppers for years, but it is clear that plastic bag waste is still the preferred method for shoppers. Yes, it is free and convenient to rely on plastic bags, but it is also lazy.

People have been needing an incentive to remember to bring their reusable bags. It is a no-brainer why lawmakers needed to find a way to require Californians to do their part in reducing waste.

Protecting the environment is essential. By implementing a ban on plastic bags, we are taking a  huge step in cleaning up the planet.