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What Impact Will California Plastic Bag Ban Have On Businesses, Consumers?

What Impact Will California Plastic Bag Ban Have On Businesses, Consumers?
What Impact Will California Plastic Bag Ban Have On Businesses, Consumers?
What Impact Will California Plastic Bag Ban Have On Businesses, Consumers? GUESTS:Roger Kube, chair, Surfrider Foundation Miro Copic, marketing lecturer, SDSU College of Business Administration

TOM FUDGE: Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to make California the first state in the nation to them the use of disposable plastic bags a grocery store checkout. Next July, the law will take effect for grocery stores and large pharmacies. In 2016, the plastic bag ban will also apply to liquor and convenience stores, but wait. One of the groups opposed to the ban, the Progressive Bag Alliance has said it will work to get initiative on the statewide ballot to overturn it. We are looking at the plastic bag ban, the politics, and what it will mean for you. Joining me in the conversation is Roger Kube and Miro Copic. Thank you for joining us. I would like to say, we invited the American progressive rag alliance, an alliance of bag manufacturers, to provide us with a spokesman for the show. But they turned us down. Roger, getting to you first, historically, California has led the way on issues involving the environment. What do you think of this plastic bag ban? ROGER KUBE: We are very excited about Governor Brown signing SB 270. This is an issue that the Surfrider foundation and many other organizations have been tirelessly working on. We have been working on this since about 2007. To come to this point, to where California policymakers have made a decision to lead on the plastic pollution issue, holding producers accountable for the life of their products, it is a big statement for California and the rest of the country on plastic illusion. TOM FUDGE: Why do we need a plastic bag ban? ROGER KUBE: A couple of reasons. Plastic bags are a part of a bigger issue, with plastic pollution in the oceans today, it is one of the leading issues laying oceans today. The plastic bag bill is in easy way to have an impact on the plastic pollution issue, because there are better alternatives in reusable bags. It is one way that policymakers can impact this issue. TOM FUDGE: I have heard some people talk about the percentage of landfill made up by plastic bags. Is there anyway we can quantify the problem that has been caused by plastic bags? ROGER KUBE: There is environment, economic impact, and the impact to our society overall. Dollar for dollar, it is estimated that the state of California spent over $25 million of each year cleaner for bag litter. That is not account for organizations like ourselves out there with volunteers getting pollution off of the beaches. In San Diego county, we do 45 to 50 public beach cleanups every year. Fully intact plastic bags typically make up the fourth or fifth largest item that we find. TOM FUDGE: The disposable plastic bag ban is scheduled to go into effect July of next year for grocery stores and one sees. Opponents led by plastic bag manufacturers are saying getting rid of plastic bags will eliminate jobs. What is your response to that? ROGER KUBE: As far as job elimination, the largest plastic bag manufacturers in the country are actually located outside of California. They are the strongest opposition to this bill. There are plastic bag manufacturers in the state of California. Fortunately, for them, and for the well-being of those employees, this bill provides a loan option for plastic bag manufacturers to retool and retrain employees, to help mitigate any type of job loss. TOM FUDGE: I said that we invited them to join us, but they declined. But here is a comment that they came out with yesterday when the bill was signed. This bill was never about the environment, it was a back room deal between grocers and union bosses. If this goes into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of manufacturing jobs, and fleece consumers for millions of dollars. I think when they are talking about fleecing consumers, they are talking about the ten cent charge that would be paid by consumers if they want to get a disposable paper bag. What is your response to their comments? ROGER KUBE: I think the plastic bag manufacturers have a lot to lose hear from a financial standpoint. Taking 11 billion plastic bags out of circulation in the state of California will hurt their pocketbooks. That being said, the impact it has two retailers based on 127 other cities and counties in the state of California that have this ordinance already in place is negligible. And so, the out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers have a lot to lose, but they continue to spread misinformation, such as that plastic bags are environmentally friendly. TOM FUDGE: I think it is time to get Miro Copic involved, since we're talking about retailers and any fractures of the plastic bag ban. What kind of impact do you think we will see? MIRO COPIC: I tend to agree with Roger. The state of California, the usage of one use plastic bags that were talking about in supermarkets has declined in the last decade by two thirds. For those plastic bag manufacturers, the impact will be negligible. I think the big concern is, as the state passes this landmark bill, the concern is about what happens in the other forty-nine states, and can they adjust and retool to offer recyclable bags, plastic or some form that will utilize their production method, that is very big issue. They want to slow it down here, and that is their biggest incentive. But from the California standpoint, the manufacturers are fairly limited. From a conservative standpoint, that is interesting, because here in San Diego, the city is fond of beaches. There have been a lot of bands in the last couple of years, and San Diego is new to this. I think what is going to happen, most people will see this as a positive impact. There will be a number of consumers that will be angry, and will not realize it. It will be a surprise to a number of consumers. But I think they will adjust quickly, and either decide to pay ten cents for the paper bag, or bring in reusable bags. A lot of people have already started doing that. TOM FUDGE: Talking about the manufacturers, this law that was signed by Governor Brown divides $2 million in loans, available to plastic bag businesses to help them transition into making reusable bags. What you think about that? $2 million in loans, with it too much for them? MIRO COPIC: As Roger mentioned, most of them are not in the state. It may be proportional to a small number of plastic bag manufacturers that produce bags, it may be in this state, and it may be appropriate. It is not my area of expertise as far as the legislative component, but it is important to understand how many manufacturers would be impacted. Often these retraining and retooling bills are proportional to the impact to the state. TOM FUDGE: Roger, how do you think this is going to affect consumers? Do you think they will eventually favor the idea of getting rid of these bags? ROGER KUBE: As Miro Copic said, I think initially there will be some consumers that are caught off guard and will not realize this is Bill went into effect. Ultimately, I think the financial impact to consumers is minute. There was a study done during the city of San Diego process for a similar ordinance last year, by a non-partisan organization called the equinox center. They determine the initial increase per family would be just over seven dollars for this kind of bill. This was reflective of city of San Diego's proposed ordinance, which was very similar. A lot of that is the initial investment in reasonable bags. We do not advocate to switch from plastic to recycled paper. The recyclable bag is the most environmentally friendly option. TOM FUDGE: I was asking you about landfills earlier, Roger, do have to bags make up a large proportion of what is in our landfills? Is this a lot of stuff, or is the problem more the fact that the volume, but the fact he gets into our waters and harms wildlife? ROGER KUBE: I think it makes up a small percentage of the waste stream overall. However, in general, the nature of plastic bags is that they are right, easily airborne, and tend to blow out of trash cans and garbage trucks, and landfills. They are probably one of the largest sources of inadvertent litter. There are also not biodegradable. They persist in the marine environment for decades, and they also threatened wildlife through ingestion and entanglement. Having a bag that is used from a nonrenewable resource to use a few times, logically it does not make much sense. TOM FUDGE: Miro Copic, you're talking about the effect on consumers. They will be giving up a certain amount of convenience, right? MIRO COPIC: They will, but however, this is an opportunity for the supermarkets to take leadership positions in respect to enabling consumers. We did some of the back of the envelope calculations. If the consumer was forced to buy paper bags, the paper bags alone with the normal grocery shopping experience may be between twenty-five and ninety dollars, depending on the estimate that you use. The investment in reusable bags can be somewhat less, and I think would supermarkets can do, they have now nine months to talk to consumers about this. Why this is a good idea, it will make your shopping experience better, and often they will divide coupons to consumers, as a great way to give consumers free reusable bags and get people to think about bringing them in every time they shop. It will help the transition, it will reduce the initial surprise when it does happen, and it will be a great opportunity. Consumers can be trained, and I mean this positively. It is a behavior change, and anytime there is a behavior change, people will be frustrated. This is a great way for supermarkets to take the lead. TOM FUDGE: We have a caller on the line who has ideas about training consumers. This is Ryan in Vista. Go ahead, you are on the show. SPEAKER4: Good morning. My family and I lived in San Luis Obispo for a while, they had a ban on plastic bags. They relocated to Vista, and re-encountered plastic bags. Initially upon our move, the transition was a little odd. We would forget to bring reusables, and we would have to buy bags over again. But within one or two shopping trips, we learned to put the leftover bags in the car, and take them with you. We noticed a change in the amount of waste that we have at the end of the shopping weekend, and you feel better about your community knowing that we live in a tourism-based state with a beautiful area, and I am not contributing to the pollution of that with a simple effort of keeping a bag in my car. TOM FUDGE: Thank you very much for calling in and sharing that story. Roger, I want to talk to you about the possible initiative that may overturn this. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will delay the law for at least a year and possibly delay it altogether. What do you think of this initiative effort? ROGER KUBE: I'm not surprised that the effort I hope and expect that Californians will be able to see through the misinformation that the plastic bag industry will continue to provide. I think that all in all, this initiative is expected by the American progressive bag alliance to repeal SB 270, I think citizens of California are much smarter. TOM FUDGE: A quick last word from Miro Copic, what are you were productions for the initiative? Do you think Californians will get behind the back ban and approve it? MIRO COPIC: I would struggle to believe that it would make the ballot given the number of signatures required. I think the caller, really one of the important benefits from the consumer perspective, do you feel you're doing your part to help the environment? That is a positive feeling, it reduces the abrupt change for some. They will see the benefit. Again, retailers are proactive in education. I think it will be really hard to get signatures to qualify for that initiative. TOM FUDGE: Thank you both very much.

California Becomes First State To Ban Plastic Bags
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, driven to action by a buildup of litter and damage to aquatic ecosystems.

A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015.

Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of large grocery stores starting next summer and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.


State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have such bans. Solana Beach is the only city in San Diego County that has a bag ban in effect. It has had a ban on plastic bags for grocers and food vendors since August 2012 and for all other stores since November 2012. Encinitas passed a bag ban in August that is set to take effect early next year, according to U-T San Diego. U-T San Diego said the statewide ban will grandfather in existing local ordinances, but pre-empts any future local bans, such as the ban that was being considered by the city of San Diego.

"With the passage of the state law, there's no longer a need for the city to take action on this," said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, the chief proponent of a local ban.

The city of San Diego was considering a ban on plastic bags.

The measure marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed plastic bag bans in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle.

"This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."


Plastic bag manufacturers have aggressively pushed back through their trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which aired commercials in California blasting the ban as a cash-giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

"If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment, and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets," Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.

Paper bag manufacturers also opposed Padilla's bill. The American Forest and Paper Association, a trade group, says it unfairly treats their commonly recycled products like plastic, while holding reusable plastic bags to a lower standard for recyclable content.

Responding to the concerns about job losses, the bill includes $2 million in loans for plastic bag manufacturers to shift their operations to make reusable bags. That provision won the support of Los Angeles Democratic Sens. Kevin De Leon and Ricardo Lara, who had blocked earlier versions of the legislation.

Lawmakers of both parties who opposed SB270 said it would penalize lower-income residents by charging them for bags they once received for free. The bill was amended to waive fees for customers who are on public assistance and limit how grocers can spend the proceeds from the fees.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico also have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

City News Service contributed to this report.