BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Voters have not one, but two choices on the Nov. 8 ballot on the question of those plastic bags handed out at places like grocery stores.
Proposition 67 would ban them at most stores. And, if that happens, Proposition 65 would put money from customers buying other bags into a special fund for the environment.
Supporters of the bag ban say they’re a litter problem that’s costly to clean up after, and they clog the recycling machines for other types of products.
“Then, there’s the big environmental problem of the threat to wildlife,” local Sierra Club member Ann Gallon said, “especially marine animals.”
She’s convinced the plastic bags are bad idea, and it will be much better if shoppers use paper bags or reuseable ones.
Opponents of Prop 67 strongly disagree.
“Bans of plastic retail bags have been proven to have negligible, if not harmful, effects on the environment,” Jon Berrier said Thursday. He’s a spokesman with the American Progressive Bag Alliance. He lists three big problems with banning the plastic bags.
Berrier said a ban doesn’t really help the environment, arguing that the reuseable plastic bags are harder to recycle and get imported from overseas.
He also said retail plastic bags account for less than 1 percent of litter.
Gallon said she’s read statistics putting that at a higher level.
Berrier also says 15 percent of the retail bags do get recycled, and up to 70 percent get reused for things like lining wastepaper baskets.
Opponents of the bag ban say it will result in a loss of jobs. Berrier says the manufacturing and recycling of the retail bags account for 25,000 jobs across the county, 2,000 of which are in California.
But, Berrier thinks Prop 67 may be approved by the voters, and that’s why his group is urging passage of Prop 65.
That measure says if plastic bags are banned, then the money shoppers spend for other bags will go into a special fund for the environment.
Berrier says the fund would be managed by the California Wildlife Conservation Board for things like drought mitigation, recycling, and beach cleanup.
He thinks the bag ban may very well pass, and putting the money into a special fund is the only way to ensure there’s a benefit to the environment.
Asked about the bag ban, Cyndi Parades says that sounds important.
“I think it would be OK if they’re going to put it toward a good use, toward a fund,” she said.
But, Gallon thinks opponents have put 65 on the ballot “only to confuse the voters,”
The opponents’ third dispute with the bag ban is that big stores will end up with millions of dollars in profit by selling other bags. Under Prop 67 , stores must charge at least 10 cents for each alternate type of carryout bag.
Gallon doubts the stores will end up with big profits from selling the alternate bags. She said they will have to cover the costs of buying those bags, and she thinks more people will switch to reusable shopping bags.
About 150 communities have already banned plastic bags, and Gallon said it’s working well for them.
State lawmakers did ban plastic bags back in 2014, but opponents got the referendum on the ballot so voters would have a say.
Bakersfield resident Chuck Mullen said he understands the arguments against the plastic bags, but he’s skeptical. He also said it’ll be inconvenient if they’re not available.
“I just think it’s another reason to tax, and I think we have enough already,” Mullen said.