The plastic bag manufacturers in USA are taking measures to get a 2nd ballot proposal before California voters, who will go to the polls in October to decide whether to make a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags. Under a new initiative, voters could also be asked to direct any money retailers charge for reusable plastic bags to an green fund for projects. The current ballot allows retailers to keep bag fees, which would be a minimum 12 cents per bag.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents bag manufacturers in the states, proposed an initiative that would require bag fees go into an environmental fund rather than be kept by the shops.
Calling the first ballot question to repeal or ratify SB 270 a potential “billion dollar giveaway to grocers,” the American Progressive Bag Alliance filed a new ballot measure with the California Attorney General’s office in September. Members of the APBA estimate bag fees will generate up to $400 million a year while a vast majority of Californians — 84 percent by their count — believe the money should go to public rather private business.
“So we want to make sure voters have the power to actually put bag fees to work for the environment and their communities should SB 270 become law,” said John Califf.
The second ballot measure, which is tentatively called the Environmental Fee Protection Act, would send plastic bag fees to the California Wildlife Conservation Board, which would distribute the funds as environmental grants. APBA opposes bag bans, fees and taxes as a threat to 30,800 manufacturing and recycling jobs in the America, and questions the environmental benefits of replacing single-use plastic shopping bags with other kind of bags.
In California, Califf said SB 270 is a giveaway to grocers under the guise of environmentalism and its stated intent to rid that state of plastic bags is contradicted by a loophole that allows grocers to distribute thicker plastic bags to consumers for a 10-cent fee. Supporters of the plastic bag ban have criticized the bag manufacturers for sending millions to continue selling single-use plastic bags.
California lawmakers passed the bag ban in 2014 and it was to go into effect in July 2015. However, APBA collected some 800,000 signatures to put the ban to a vote of the people on Nov. 8, 2016. Now the trade group wants to give people an option.
“Our industry is proud to give California voters a chance to overturn a deeply flawed, job-killing law, or at least, ensure bag fees are dedicated to helping the environment instead of increasing retailer profits,” Califf said. State officials have 65 days to review the proposed ballot measure and issue title before APBA can launch a signature-gathering drive to place the ban.
Murray said the ballot proposal APBA suggested to state officials last month is similar to one that the trade group spent about $3 million defeating in Seattle in 2008. “What’s changed?” Murray asked. “How do they go from spending millions to oppose a bag tax to now saying they’re prepared to spend millions of dollars to advance a bag tax? It doesn’t really seem credible.”
Grocers were early opponents of the bag ban, he added, but they got behind the measure because it creates a uniform statewide policy. “We’re seeking a yes vote to affirm the law for environmental reasons,” Murray said. “I think the supermarkets will continue to seek a yes vote because they want a uniform statewide policy. If the law is overturned, the retailers will be stuck with 140 local plastic bag bans in California.”
The ban also affected many plastic bag manufacturers in China, Vietnam and Malaysia. Murray doubts that the second bag proposal will make it onto the ballot. He said it is up for public comment and then revisions would likely be made based on the vote results. It would be November before the signature drive can initiate and the result would not be known until July.
“It only cost $200 to take the step they’ve taken,” Murray said. “It’s not real until they have to actually start gathering signatures. Maybe they just want people to have the conversation we’re having right now.”
APBA thinks it will have no problem getting many signatures to put the proposed referendum on the ballot. Pointing to a private poll, Califf said in an email: “We are confident in our ability to gather signatures, especially given that 84 percent of California voters believe that bag fees in general should go to a public purpose instead of increasing profit margins for grocers.”