Editorial: What plastic bag ban? California stores still doling out disposable sacks
It’s the latest example of plastic bag policy making that has gone awry.
The governor and state legislators have been in a bitter battle over how to deal with plastic bags since this summer. At one end, grocery stores are suing to overturn regulations on where they can be placed. At the other, lawmakers are trying to prevent the grocery industry from imposing such stringent rules by imposing their own.
The two sides have both made a mistake.
It’s easy to understand how Californians might want to avoid the inconvenience of a plastic bag ban on their grocery trips. But it’s also reasonable to want to preserve the existing system of bags at this time, as retailers continue to be forced to use less effective alternatives.
It’s also hard to figure out why lawmakers would go along with these two opposing approaches when this problem, and others like it, can easily be solved if lawmakers just focus on the problem instead of constantly looking for solutions.
Plastic bag bans
California has a plastic bag ban. Several large retailers have sued to overturn the regulations. And Gov. Jerry Brown tried to ban those bags anyway.
On Oct. 1, Brown signed legislation designed to ban any grocery plastic bags with a thickness greater than three millimeters. As it stands, grocery stores must use a single plastic bag per checkout, except on the top shelf, where they must be provided with a separate bag.
This is what supermarkets are facing right now: supermarkets are required to give customers one single plastic bag, but are allowed to provide customers with two different plastic bags for a higher-visibility bag to protect food items that might be cut or damaged during the checkout process.
Brown’s law takes effect Jan. 1. But supermarkets will have to comply with the law, which includes an exemption for reusable bags.
That’s not much of a problem, right? In any other situation, retailers could choose to offer customers reusable bags with handles that double as plastic bags. But since California retailers are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for plastic bags, they’d have to comply with the law – and use reusable bags – or be required to use fewer bags.