Recently, the topic of banning plastic bags has become hotly debated. China has shown the world that an outright ban of plastic bags can be effective, celebrating the 5th anniversary of the nation’s plastic bag restriction earlier this month.
The National Development and Reform Commission reports that China’s prohibition has seen a two-thirds decline in the use of plastic bags, reducing overall consumption of them by 67 billion. This saves the equivalent of roughly 6 million tons of oil, while effectively keeping these bags out of landfills and the environment.
California tried to follow suit with Senate Bill 405 which proposed a similar restriction for plastic shopping bags. In California alone, an estimated 19 billion plastic bags are used each year, with less than 5 percent of these actually recycled. The bill was struck down in Senate due largely to lobbying from the plastic bag industry, the notion that it would reduce jobs, and the annoyance shoppers would face.
This defeat at the state level has not stopped a trend among cities across the nation, including a few in California, to move towards eliminating plastic bags in their markets.
California Cities on the Plastic Bag Ban
In California, some cities have already imposed a complete prohibition of plastic shopping bags, with many others passing bills that are currently pending vote to take effect.
San Francisco passed its ban on plastic bags in 2007, becoming the first city in the nation to pass such a bill. This year, the law was extended to cover all stores and restaurants by October.
Solana Beach has also invoked a citywide prohibition on plastic bags, currently preventing their use in grocery stores and pharmacies and extending to all other retailers in November. Santa Monica has similar restrictions.
On Tuesday, a proposal to ban plastic bags passed the City Council of Los Angeles following approval by the city’s Energy and Environmental Committee. A final vote could happen as early as next week.
In Sacramento, a plastic bag bill also passed through the legislation committee unanimously last month, and will soon be brought before the city council for vote.
Plastic Bag Bans Across the Nation
Chicago may be on track to follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles. Alderman Joe Moreno proposed a ban that the City Council Committee is scheduled to consider soon.
Similarly, Dallas city leaders advanced an ordinance on plastic bags last week that will now go to the full City Council for discussion. The New York City Council is also in the process of discussing such a restriction, spearheaded by Councilman Brad Lander.
Portland extended its citywide ban on plastic shopping bags last year with little opposition, phasing out the bags at an estimated 5,000 retailers and restaurants.
Even with the movement’s momentum, there is still a lack of consensus on the overall benefit from plastic bag bans. Some studies have shown that such restrictions lead to an increase in food born illnesses, employee layoffs, and don’t actually reduce the amount of litter.
It stands to be seen if the negatives outweigh the positives with these bans in the United States. Previously mentioned cities have become early adopters for the rest of the nation to see the actual impact of a plastic bag ban.