Plastics Recycling Update

Second bag-related measure hits California ballot

Bag-with-groceries / sumire8, ShutterstockIn the upcoming November election, Californians will have two measures to vote on regarding the state’s historic plastic bag ban.

Last week, the California secretary of state announced an initiative related to fees on paper and reusable bags had received enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative (15-0074) will join a separate ballot measure (14-0011) that asks voters whether a statewide ban on plastic bags should be overturned.

Both measures have been pushed forward by the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), which is backed by plastic bag manufacturers. The group appears to be hoping that multiple ballot measures will help ensure the state’s ban on plastic bags gets overturned.

The statewide ban, the first to be passed in the U.S., was signed into law in 2014, but APBA quickly mobilized to qualify a repeal measure for the November 2016 ballot. That initial action meant the statewide ban would not go into effect until after voters had a chance to weigh in.

The bag-fee initiative that qualified for the ballot last week could have a major impact on how those voters act.

Current language in the bag ban allows retailers to keep a 10-cent fee charged to shoppers who want paper or reusable bags at checkout. The recently qualified ballot initiative requires funds collected from those fees to instead go to environmentally focused projects. Backers of the initiative argue the ban’s current setup would allow retailers to pocket an extra $400 million a year in revenue.

The bag-fee initiative was filed last November by APBA. One academic expert on the subject noted at the time of the filing that the addition of another bag-related ballot item had the potential to confuse voters – such confusion can lead voters to simply reject everything.

In a press release issued last week, the environmental group Californians Against Waste blasted the move. “This measure has been placed on the ballot by four out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers as a last ditch effort to confuse and mislead California voters,” the group stated.

The California Grocers Association, which has come out in support of the ban, said it has not taken a position on the latest initiative.

“The California Grocers Association continues to support the statewide plastic bag ban,” the group said in a statement sent to Plastics Recycling Update. “Local bans have proven successful in nearly 150 jurisdictions, and it makes sense for consumers, small business and the environment to have a statewide ban.”

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