Resistance Mounts to Bag Bans as More Cities Consider Enforcement
Bans on disposable plastic shopping bags continue to spread across the country, but not everyone is in favor of the legislation. With news of Austin becoming the latest city to enforce a ban on the plastic bags, both bag manufacturers and retailers are starting to fight back against what they see as at best uniformed lawmaking and at worst draconian overreach.
San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags in April 2007, and since then, similar bans and taxes have been proposed or passed in other California towns as well as cities in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Most legislation has cited the environmental impact of disposable bags, which often end up as litter on the ground or in lakes and oceans where it can harm marine life.
Those reports of environmental harm are overstated, according to opponents. The San Diego Union-Tribune says that only 0.4 percent of landfill space is dedicated to plastic bags, and that the items, while not biodegradable, are recyclable.
The Union-Tribune also argues that such legislation unfairly punishes businesses, who could alienate customers if they do not offer bags and risk fines if they do. This reasoning is what caused Celine Olson, the former mayor of Solana Beach who endorsed that city's bag ban, to reverse course and ask the city to overturn the legislation. ABC 10 News in California reports that one store in Solana Beach has seen "a 25 percent drop in business" since getting rid of the free plastic bags.
In addition to banning the plastic bags, most of the laws require retailers to charge between $0.05 and $0.10 for each paper bag given out, and to offer reusable tote bags for purchase such as those available form many promotional products suppliers. These laws offer distributors more selling opportunities, although businesses report that customers simply do not want to pay for bags no matter what. "You know, you spend a lot of money you expect to have a bag, not pay for it," one shopper told ABC 10.
Related story: Bag Bans Expand Across U.S., Other Countries