The push for a statewide plastic bag ban in California has once again been defeated.
Senate Bill 405 failed to top the 21-vote threshold needed for passage, with senators voting in favor of the measure 18-17. Four senators did not cast votes.
This is the eighth attempt to ban plastic bags and tax paper bags in California, where 55 local ordinances have been passed to cover 76 communities to ban plastic bags.
Senate Bill 405 would have prohibited grocery stores and large retailers from giving customers single-use plastic bags at checkout starting Jan. 1, 2015. The ban would have been expanded to smaller stores on Jan. 1, 2016, and included a fee for paper bags.
“[The] vote signals the facts have prevailed in this debate,” said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization that represents plastic bag manufactures and recyclers, in a statement. “A ban on 100% recyclable plastic bags would hurt the environment and threaten jobs.”
After the bill’s defeat, Sen. Alex Padilla, the main sponsor on the measure, said he thinks the bill will ultimately prevail in the future.
“While I’m disappointed at today’s result, I remain encouraged because more of my colleagues had the courage to support this measure than similar attempts in the last five years. I am convinced that a statewide policy is only a matter of time,” Padilla said in a statement.
Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, was similarly optimistic about the bill’s future.
“We are disappointed in this missed opportunity to dramatically reduce plastic pollution and waste in California, and save consumers hundreds of millions in one-time use bag costs,” he said in a statement. “But regardless of the outcome of this legislation this year, the fate of the plastic grocery bag is sealed — the plastic grocery bag, which only came on the scene in the 1970s — will be extinct in California before the end of this decade.”
The Senate has been the roadblock in the past for plastic bag ban legislation, with measures advancing through the Assembly previously, but never passing the Senate.
Those against the measure called it unnecessary and a job killer.
“Saying plastic bags are single-use is a huge misnomer,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara on the Senate floor during the debate. “If you think plastic bags are single-use, you haven’t met my mother.”
Lara said he was pushing against the measure because up to 700 jobs in his district would likely be impacted if it had passed.
Padilla said plastic bag manufacturers in the state either already produce reusable plastic bags or are in the process of switching systems over so they can manufacture them as well.
“These companies are transitioning and workers can be trained,” he said.
But the potential job losses shouldn’t derail the measure, Padilla argued.
“It’s like arguing that we shouldn’t fight the obesity problem because of what it might do to companies like Coke and Pepsi,” Padilla said during the debate. “It’s like arguing we shouldn’t fight climate change because what it might do to the oil companies.”
Sen. Ted Gaines said the current system works, with local communities determining what is best for them in terms of taxing or banning bags.
“We should work on education and enforcement [on the importance of not littering],” he said.