California's Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Likely On Hold

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California's first-in-the-nation statewide ban on single-use plastic bags is on hold, and unlikely to go into effect as planned on July 1, 2015.

That's because opponents of the ban, backed by the plastic bag industry, appear to have gathered enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot in November 2016 to overturn the ban.

If enough of those signatures are valid and the referendum qualifies, the ban on single use plastic bags will be suspended until voters weigh in, nearly two years from now.

Here & Now's Robin Young spoke with Jon Berrier, a spokesperson for the American Progressive Bag Alliance — a group funded by plastic bag manufacturers — which gathered the signatures for the referendum. He says "the bill has nothing to do with the environment," and that it's a threat to manufacturing jobs in California and the industry as a whole.

Plastic bags, Berrier says, make up less than 0.5 percent of the American waste stream, according to the EPA. He adds that if people are "responsibly using, reusing and recycling these products, they're actually highly environmentally friendly," and more energy efficient than paper bags to produce and recycle.

But according to Molly Peterson, environment correspondent with Southern California Public Radio, "Environmentalists say it's less about the amount in the total waste stream and more about the insidiousness and the persistence of that plastic."

Further, Peterson says that even if the ban is suspended, around one third of Californians live in areas with a local plastic bag ban.

The same environmental groups that support the state-wide ban, she adds, are concentrating their efforts on a local level, working to add to the "130 municipalities, counties, and local entities that have enacted some sort of a ban."

Anti-plastic bag sentiment, Peterson says, is "a pretty widespread thing at this point."


This segment aired on December 31, 2014.


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