The war on the plastic bag rages on in California. Considered to represent environmental wastefulness, policy makers in the state have started to come out in droves to make the plastic bag extinct.
It all started in 2007, when San Francisco became the first city in the United States to ban plastic bags. Since then, almost 100 municipalities in California have outlawed plastic bags. At the beginning of this year, Los Angeles became the largest city in the United States to enforce the ban.
Furthermore, there is currently a push from lawmakers in Sacramento to expand the ban state wide, which would make California the first U.S. state to outlaw the controversial consumer product.
An outspoken supporter is California Senator Alex Padilla, who says we are now witnessing the beginning of the end of the plastic bag. His proposed policy would ban the bag in liquor stores and supermarkets, along with any other locations where the plastic bag is used. Shoppers would be encouraged to not forget their canvas bags and if they do, paper bags and reusable plastic bags would be available for a fee of 10 cents.
Mark Daniels, one of the vice presidents of Hilex Polythe, the nation’s largest manufacturer of plastic bags, says the ban would have a negative effect on the economy. It would cost America 2,000 jobs, and the main source of plastic bags would be China rather than the United States. The company had lobbied against two previous attempts at a plastic bag ban in California, in 2010 and 2013. The last attempt required them to make donations to California Democrats to obtain full support against the legislation.
Elsewhere in America, the war on the plastic bag rages on. In New York City, a ban had been considered several times, including a proposal that did not come to fruition in late 2013. Parts of Massachusetts, in the North Shore and Honolulu, have also seen local bans. In Washington D.C., there is a fee of five cents to use the plastic bag.
North of the border, Canada has yet to catch on. The city of Toronto, where it is estimated 215 million plastic bags are used annually, considered a plastic bag ban in 2012. The legislation would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2013, but the decision was reversed due to legal challenges.
Mexico has not made much progress in regard to banning plastic bags. The closest came in Mexico City, where a ban was made on free plastic bags.
Outside of North America, Europe hopes to reduce the use of plastic bags by 80 percent by 2017, while the EU is considering a ban entirely. It is estimated that each European citizen uses 200 bags a year, with eight billion plastic bags ending up in lakes, rivers and seas, harming marine life and gulls.
Though it is easy to make the argument that plastic bags are harmful to the environment and to marine life, the other side of the issue is something that is not talked about as much: the potential number of jobs that would be lost. It is safe to say the war on the plastic bag is just beginning, and will continue to rage on for the next few years.
By Kollin Lore