Plastic bag bans are making headlines in California again this week, with two more cities passing ordinances to restrict plastic shopping bags and San Francisco considering strengthening its existing legislation.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale will ban plastic bags, beginning next June, in large grocery stores and retailers, while exempting restaurants and nonprofit organizations, the San Jose Mercury News reports. To encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags on their shopping trips, stores will charge 10 cents per paper bag distributed – a fee that will increase to 25 cents in 2014.
The city expects the new regulations to reduce plastic bag use within the jurisdiction by 95 percent, from 75.2 million bags a year to 3.8 million, according to advocacy group Californians Against Waste.
Further south, along California’s central coast, the city of Monterey adopted a similar ordinance, banning plastic shopping bags in retail stores and charging a 10-cent fee for paper bags starting in mid-2012, Californians Against Waste reports. Like Sunnyvale’s regulations, the paper bag fee will be raised to 25 cents the following year.
Monterey estimates that the new legislation will cut plastic bag use by 2.8 million bags each year, while preventing 740,000 paper bags from being distributed.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the first city to enact a plastic bag ban, the Board of Supervisors has delayed a vote on changes to the city’s original ordinance until February, according to the San Francisco Appeal.
Under San Francisco’s current law, supermarkets and chain store pharmacies are prohibited from distributing plastic bags, but there is no fee on paper shopping bags. Proposed revisions to the legislation would extend the plastic bag ban to all retail establishments by October 2012 and restaurants by 2013. A 10-cent fee would also be placed on paper bags, bringing San Francisco’s ordinance in line with other Californian cities’ ordinances.
With the passage of Monterey’s and Sunnyvale’s new laws, there are now 16 jurisdictions in the Golden State that have banned plastic shopping bags, Californians Against Waste says.
Proponents of plastic bag bans say that simply encouraging shoppers to bring their own shopping bags to stores hasn’t been effective in reducing single-use shopping bags. They also point to the material’s low recycling rates, impact on marine life and litter clean-up costs.
Makers of plastic bags and industry organizations such as the American Chemistry Council, however, criticize plastic bag bans for limiting consumer choice and harming the growth of plastic bag recycling programs. They also say that manufacturing and transporting plastic bags is more environmentally friendly than producing paper bags.