California just made history by becoming the first state in the Union to officially ban plastic bags. The California Plastic Bag Veto Referendum (Proposition 67) was approved by voters on Nov. 8 by a narrow margin of 51.97% in favor to 48.03% opposed. The narrow win came despite a $6 million campaign waged by the out-of-state plastic bag industry.
California voters have taken a stand against a deceptive, multi-million dollar campaign by out-of-state plastic bag makers,” said Californians Against Waste (CAW) campaign co-chair, Mark Murray. “This is a significant environmental victory that will mean an immediate elimination of the 25 million plastic bags that are polluted in California every day, threatening wildlife.”
The writing was already on the wall for plastic bags in California, as San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007 – with nearly half the state following suit soon after. The California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 270 in 2014, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. But, according to the Sacramento Bee, the American Progressive Bag Alliance led a campaign to repeal the bill, claiming it would kill thousands of jobs in a state and cost residents hundreds of dollars each year in bag fees.
Voters soundly defeated Proposition 65, a related measure that proposed an environmental fund created with the proceeds from a 10-cent fee on the sale of cloth and other alternative bags.
The restrictions apply to large food retailers, pharmacies, corner markets and liquor stores but not restaurants or department stores.
Businesses can still offer paper bags and thicker plastic bags as long as they charge at least 10 cents for each of those items — a move crafted to encourage folks to tote their own reusable sacks.
Industry groups such as Hilex Poly and Formosa Plastics have criticized the ban as an unnecessary tax on low-income shoppers that will have little impact on reducing overall pollution. The largely out-of-state industry poured $6.1 million into the campaign to overturn the law, compared with the $1.6 million spent by environmental groups to save it.