California’s Plastic-Bag Ban Could Be on the Ropes
The state law, which was to take effect later this year, is now on hold after a plastics-industry group led an effort to launch a referendum against the law. But critics say the petition effort represents an attempt by outside groups to affect the state's process.
The state law, which was to take effect later this year, is now on hold after a plastics-industry group led an effort to launch a referendum against the law. But critics say the petition effort represents an attempt by outside groups to affect the state’s process.
The plastics industry wants to bag California’s SB 270—and they’re a step closer to doing just that.
On Tuesday, the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), an advocacy group formed by the association SPI, announced that it had acquired 555,000 valid signatures—about 50,000 more than needed—for a ballot referendum on the plastic-bag ban. The alliance had submitted around 800,000 signatures at the end of last year.
The planned referendum means that the law, which passed in September, won’t be able to take effect until after the state votes on it in November 2016.
“California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative,” APBA Executive Director Lee Califf said in a statement.
APBA garnered support from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and a number of local taxpayers’ groups.
Another manufacturing group supportive of the referendum is the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), whose members are also affected, due to a 10-cent tax on paper bags, along with a requirement that the bags use postconsumer recycled paper.
“The referendum’s swift qualification shows the strength of public opposition to SB 270, which would mandate a tax on consumers for choosing sustainable packaging,” AF&PA Group Vice President Cathy Foley said in a statement. “We are pleased that California voters will have an opportunity to reverse the Legislature’s misguided policy.”
Opposition Remains Strong
While APBA touts its strong momentum, the opposition to the referendum remains equally strong. The state’s leadership, including Gov. Jerry Brown, is particularly critical of the effort by the plastics industry.
“This is a cynical ploy by out-of-state interests desperate to delay a ban already adopted in more than 100 communities across California,” Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, told the Associated Press.
The environmental advocacy group Californians vs. Big Plastic approached the news with an arched eyebrow.
“It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits,” spokesman Mark Murray stated.