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Steve Lopez: It took an army of lobbyists to kill California's ban on plastic bags

TalkBackLopez_187x105I'd been in contact with Heal the Bay's Mark Gold before, during and after the vote on the proposed plastic-bag ban, which on Tuesday night sank to the bottom of the swamp in Sacramento.

So what now?

I'll get to that in a minute. Gold, after months of lobbying, was devastated by the 21-14 defeat in the California Senate. The statewide ban at supermarkets and convenience stores would have been the first in the nation and was supported by the governor and key legislators as well as grocers and environmentalists.

It would have made neighborhoods cleaner and waterways safer for wildlife, but Sacramento is often where good ideas go to die. "The failure reflects more on the competency of the Legislature than it does on the policy itself," Gold said in an e-mail the morning after.

The American Chemistry Council spent millions opposing the bill, which the bag-making industry called a job killer and a hardship for shoppers, who would have had to bring their own totes or pay for recyclable bags.

Critics also said the bill would cost $4 million to implement, while environmentalists argued the state spent far, far more disposing of millions of discarded bags.

Gold was particularly ticked off by one of the hired guns who helped kill the bill -- former Assembly Speaker Fabián Núñez, who passed himself off as an environmentalist while in office, is now a lobbyist for the Chemistry Council.

"Because he is no friend of urban rivers or marine life, can he return all of the environmental awards he received for that effort?" Gold asked on his blog, Spouting Off.

So what's the next step for Heal the Bay, now that a state with an international reputation for environmental leadership has rejected a simple, straighforward effort to clean California? Keep fighting, said Gold, whose blog was titled "We Will Win the War." "

"Already, L.A. County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach are planning to move forward with bans," he said, and Heal the Bay will back those efforts.

Would you support bans in those cities and others? Let us know.

-- Steve Lopez

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

Comments () | Archives (96)

I support efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags; they are wasteful. But, imposing a charge on them is a better way to go and likely to face less resistance. Much harder to make the argument that it will incovenience shoppers. This bill allowed for a charge for paper bags, just put on a double charge for plastic. This gives a strong incentive for people to remember their reusable bags without overly punishing the few times they forget (by making them but their whole grocery basket items one by one into the car.

Also, if people are having to by the bags, this gives a good incentive for them to tell the baggers to use just a couple bags instead of giving each item it's own person bag as many do.

Fees make more sense and should be easier to pass (though still a challenge with those lobbyists...)

PS - shame on Nunez...

It doesn't matter to me one way or the other when it comes to paper or plastic but if it pisses off liberals, then I will always ask for plastic.

It is a sad reflection of our dysfunctional legislature that a common sense environmental regulation like a ban on plastic bags cannot pass the Senate. Those who voted against this bill should truly be ashamed.

Lobbyist stopped a popular bill? Corporate interests were held above the peoples?

No way! This cant be the way American politics works can it? Profits above principles?

Yup, that's the American way.

Yes Ted Steven. Plastic NEVER disintegrate. Molecules separate but stay as plastic molecules. End up in food eventually. Super healthy.

Buy canvas bags - 1 buck
Start the ban on your own, don't wait for government to think for you. I know it's a bit more effort than drooling in front of reality shows but...

The American Chemistry Council people just want to make money to retire rich, never mind the environment. But what's the use of a big fat retirement account if you have nowhere to live that's clean?

Publish the list of how the Legislature members voted, and let people decide what to do with their tenure.

Ruse bags are only a problem if you do not reuse them. In our home we do not buy garbage bags we only reuse grocery bags. We use them for cat litter, bathroom, bedroom, office garbage, etc.

If these get banned , we'll have to waste money on small garbage bags.

So stop picking on these and learn how to reuse them.

Plastic bags are convenient and inexpensive. If people don't like them, then don't use them. Don't add more unnecessary regulation.

The ban on plastic bags is very important to out enviroment. The excuse that it would be a hardship for shoppers is ABSURD!!! If the oil copmpanies that support the palstic bag industry are so concerned about people losing jobs why dont they start making reusable bags instead? As far as Mr. Nunez, what did we expect, he's a polititian.

Of course, of course I would support a ban. Okay, let's do it city-by-city and then the state will do it. (And then the country.)

When I heard that the bill failed my first guess was that it had been lobbied to death. Although this did not pass on a state-wide level I am holding out hope that our larger California cities will pass the same measure, but on a local level. The impact that could have would still be large to our local environments and would be a great place to start over and move forward with this movement.

Forget the cursed lobbyists and legislature! Let's do this plastic bag ban thing on our own. After all, there's way more of us than them. If we all just walk into a store with our reusable bags - we won. Let the troublesome plastic bags sit there at the counter. Refuse them. We can win this.

Yes... I support no plastic now! What a bunch of losers (sacramento). this was a no brainer... seems the bags have the same shelf life as plutonium (well maybe not, but close)...
Thanks for nothing.... Conscious people will adjust, they always do...
The rest are just lazy.
What ever did we do pre-plastic bags?
We got our groceries/stuff home with no problem!

Not easy but not impossible.The question in this subject is, if really the population is able to accept this new " Law/Ban "that will bring for sure less contamination for every body.
My question concerning all this subject is, if in the poverty areas, that the plastics bags are also a kind of moving/transport/solution's element could be replaced so easy as for the other population's group will do because they don't need to move every day their household.

This is my question as a pedestrian also a someone who is using public transportation in this great County LA, where the plastics bags are inside the daily use of very body from Officers clerks to teachers going to the Public Employees and workers.If this great idea is coming soon needs to be replaced the use for an other product that can be reused again as cotton or other non toxic generated stuff.
If the idea is only to be used by the ones who have the common sense in this subject.Sorry it will be only an elite project that with the time will died as other nice ideas that in the world's reality are only an Illusion.
To keep our world safe is not so easy but not impossible.It is matter from every body who can see that.
We need only to see the optical situation from thousand of homeless population as I said and poor citizens that were using this kind of transports bags to keep their household or goods in a safe condition.
Not decadent needs to be understood my comment only a realistic approach concerning a very big percent of the population of this great country.

GOOD! That is all I need to worry about and remember - bringing shopping bags TO the store with me. Just more interference by know-it-all, self-appointed, do-gooders, who know best for everyone and are happy to impose their values on others. There is no law REQUIRING stores to give out plastic bags, so how about instead of making more work for ME, you do-gooders focus on a market-based answer? How about a bag that is economical and degrades? Not one I have to pay for, keep around the house and remember to bring to the store, but one they give me just like now.

For $0.99 per reusable bag (if not less), bring your own bags to the store people. Just keep 'em in the trunk of your car. It's not complicated.

The ban was a sick joke. How many people use paper instead of plastic - not many.

Plastic bags are popular because they are the best solution available to consumers to carry their groceries in cars, while walking and on public transit

When tree huggers want to inconvenience the people of California in order to impose their ideology through nanny state rules, they should not be surprised that there is solid opposition

Go back to your Prius, turn off your air conditioning, switch off your sprinklers and compost your human waste if that is what Gaia commands - just dont impose your religion on those of us who are just trying to get through the day

After the floods in Mumbi India where it was discovered that storm drains had been clogged by plastic bags, and people had drowned because the streets were flooded, India banned plastic bags in the whole country.

They are a nuisance, the people who use them do not seem to be able to dispose of them properly, and they do not degrade. They break up into very small pieces and the ocean is full of those pieces. Wildlife is found with them clogging their digestive systems, and millions of sea birds alone have died because of them.

I think the proposed ban is nuts. We use those bags to line the trash cans in the bedrooms and bathrooms. When they are used up, I empty them and then throw the bags themselves in the recycle can.

Shopping wise we have nice bags from Trader Joe's and Costco... but those plastic bags are handy.

If they didn't give out plastic bags, then I'd have to buy them, so I'd still use plastic bags.

IMHO, Sacramento has to start working again. Distractions like plastic bag bans, non native fish species in the delta, solar power, etc... are simply killing the state and preempting responsible administration of the budget.

Perhaps you should start writing about IMPORTANT things and quit fanning the flames of irrelevance, huh?

I support the ban. I didn't realize this came up for a vote, otherwise I would've called or written the state Senate. Another sad day in politics where money, and not common sense, proves to be king.

Why aren't the names of the people who voted against this measure being printed by the Times, along with their office addresses and phone numbers. How can ordinary people protest this kind of stupidity and short-sightedness without that information?

Continue working on consumer education. People will pay a nickel for a bag, they don't care. Work on educating people why it's good to reuse bags, or use cloth bags.

I don't like the heavy handedness of the cloth bag set. I reuse paper or plastic until I need them for Goodwill or garbage. If everyone reused paper or plastic even once, that's half as many bags as previously used, not bad in my book.

they need to repeal the law that prevents local governments from issuing fees on plastic bags. This is the biggest hinderance to decreasing plastic bag use. Right now local governments can't place fees on plastic bags. Should there be a fee, it would be just as effective as banning a bag, since less people would want to pay for a flimsy plastic bag, and would naturally look for reusable alternatives. They should be repealing that law instead of outright banning them. Fees have been effective in Ireland.

Who cares? What we need removed from office are those slimy third rate political hacks in Sacramento? Starting with Brown and Boxer.

i think of myself as a conscientious person and i still use plastic bags. it is so hard to break my habit. and i also use them for my garbage. but now i will find alternatives for my trash and bring totes to the store. i do care about our world and believe we can repair the damage us humans have done. we did it -we can fix it. it just does not happen as fast as we would have liked. but it is progress none the less.

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