State senators rejected a bill known as SB405 on May 30, 2013 that would have phased out the use of single-use plastic checkout bags in grocery, drug and convenience stores in Sacramento, noted a May 31, 2013 Sacramento Bee article, “State Senate rejects effort to ban plastic bags.” The plastics manufacturing industry lobbied locally here in Sacramento and throughout other parts of California that the ban would cost hundreds of jobs for people working in plastic bag manufacturing industries.
The bill on getting rid of plastic bags had been introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles. Some people even view recycling as another tax of sorts. See, “Plastic bag bill another tax in green clothing.”
The senator will try again next year. Also see the Sacramento Bee article, “Plastic bags do more harm than good.” It’s the fifth such bill to fail in the Senate since 2010. One of the main reasons why the bill didn’t pass is that it would have cost the loss of numerous manufacturing jobs. Padilla argued without success that those factories can produce other plastic products, including the reusable grocery bags that would largely replace single-use bags.
On the other hand, more than 70 local governments prohibit such bags. At present, nearly 20 percent of Californians live in areas that don’t permit the bags such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. The bags don’t biodegrade when buried in landfills. Instead they take centuries to deteriorate and put toxins into the soil and water known as phthalates. Plastic bags also are dangerous to wildlife and any pets that eat them.
More than 14 billion single-use plastic bags are distributed each year by California retailers
Only five percent of people who get plastic bags from retailers are recycling them, mainly because they don’t know where to bring them, so they toss them in the garbage cans. Others find places that take plastic bags are too far to travel to, and some grocery stores don’t take them back. Plastic bags need to be replaced with bags made of affordable materials that biodegrade and also can be recycled without cutting down trees.
Ten Democrats joined Republican senators in voting against the measure or refusing to vote
The bill fell three votes short on an 18-17 roll call, reported the Sacramento Bee article. Presently uses of plastic bags include taking the bags on walks with dogs to scoop up litter the dogs do and using plastic bags to put kitchen waste in that would normally clog garbage disposals in kitchen sinks.
Others use plastic bags to pack hair brushes and personal hygiene products such as shampoo bottles, combs, toothpaste, and skin care products when traveling or storing in cabinets. What would really be wanted are bags that can be recycled or biodegraded without having customers travel to recycling sites for grocery bags. Paper bags are great for kitchen waste, but if wet, tear through, and the garbage falls out.
Consumers want biodegradable bags or bags that can be used for other purposes
The solution is to manufacture bags that aren’t toxic to the environment and biodegrade easily. Tote bags for groceries usually aren’t large enough or carry bacteria as they’re not washed often enough to stay clean enough for food to come into contact with the canvas.
It would be great if garbage cans were provided just for the purpose of placing recyclable plastic bags and containers. In Sacramento, most people use recycling cans not all the time for mixed recycling but mainly for paper and cardboard shipping boxes. And plastic bottles are difficult to dispose of in the same container as plastic bags because people don’t associate the two with recycle cans meant for paper and cardboard items.
They can’t go into the green waste cans, either. And another problem is there are no recycling cans for batteries and light bulbs, which makes it difficult for nondrivers to find a store nearby that takes these items located on public transit lines as most stores taking these items for recycling aren’t within walking distance of most Sacramento homes.
Most neighborhood recycling efforts also focus on used clothing, books, small appliances, and recyclable e-waste. Paper bags remain upright, so that people can put kitchen garbage into them such as potato peels, fold them over, and put them in the garbage can where they’ll biodegrade when compacted. Others want a way to recycle empty metal cans that once held vegetables, fruit, sauces, or seafood and meats.
At least glass containers are recyclable or used for storage of other items. But various types of plastic containers often leach out those toxic phthalates into foods when used and washed repeatedly. And they break down when left in the backyard sun, for example planters and buckets. The goal when it comes to plastics, toxins, and jobs, is find what’s healthiest. For those in the plastic industry, it’s about competition. For others, a green solution often is interpreted as another tax. And the ultimate resolution is what’s best for holistic health.