Voter Guide: Eliminate Single-Use Plastic Bags

Voter Guide: Eliminate Single-Use Plastic Bags

Two competing, conflicting, and overlapping propositions on the California ballot deal with bans on single-use plastic bags.  While they initially appear complementary, one of these measures will actually protect our environment, and the other is designed as a poison-pill to turn retailers against bag bans.


YES on Prop 67

A “yes” vote on Prop 67 would ratify Senate Bill 270, banning retailers from giving away single-use plastic bags in most retail stores throughout the state.  Prop 67 mirrors many of the local measures banning plastic bags in cities and counties around the state, requiring retailers to charge at least 10 cents for each recycled or reusable bag.  Under Prop 67, any bag fees would be retained by retailers to help defray the added costs of implementing the bag ban, such as providing recycled paper bags, and educating customers to bring their own reusable bags.

Ubiquitous single-use plastic bags have an outsized impact on our environment.  Plastics are usually made from petroleum, and typically require fossil fuel-powered energy to produce.  Plastics are not biodegradable, and can take hundreds, or even thousands of years to decompose, littering our cities, and polluting natural areas, waterways, and oceans.  Wildlife often ingest discarded plastic bags, mistaking them for food, which can lead to digestive or breathing problems.  A European Commission study of the North Sea found that 90% of examined birds had plastic in their stomachs.

On the other hand, bans on single-use plastic bags have shown drastic reductions in plastic bag litter.  The ban on single-use plastic bags in San Jose led to an 89% reduction in plastic litter in the city’s storm drain system, and a 60% reduction in creeks and rivers.  Similarly, a bag tax in Ireland let to a 95% reduction in plastic bag litter.

We recommend a YES vote on Proposition 67 to help reduce plastic waste, and protect our environment.


NO on Prop 65

Prop 65 would direct any funds raised from bag fees to the Wildlife Conservation Fund, a state agency that allocates funds for recreational areas and wildlife habitat protection.  On its surface this proposition seems complementary to Prop 67, but it is sponsored by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization of plastics industry companies that fights against efforts to ban plastic bags, and is leading the opposition to Prop 67.  Instead, Prop 65 places an added burden on retailers to shoulder the full cost of implementing the bag ban, and the administrative task of directing bag fees to the state.

Prop 65 is not supported by any environmental organizations, and is opposed by organizations such as Clean Water Action, the Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, and the California Environmental Justice Alliance Action.  Opponents of the measure note that state revenues from bag fees will be very limited, and will diminish over time as consumers adapt to bringing their own reusable bags.

Prop 65 is not about protecting wildlife, it is designed to confuse voters and turn retailers against bag bans.  We recommend a NO vote.


Header image by flickr user Taber Andrew Bain via Creative Commons, CC BY