Plastic Bags

Soon we will all be mandated to haul our groceries, booze, and hamburgers around in organic-certified, fair-trade, shade-grown burlap sacks.


Burlap Sacks
Creative Loafing

Many municipalities in the Golden State have now banned plastic bags. First, they came for our plastic bags; now they are coming after paper bags… at least in California. California Senate Bill 270 would prohibit grocery stores, convenience stores, wine shops, fast food joints and so forth from handing out free paper bags to their customers. From the bill:

This bill, as of July 1, 2015, would prohibit stores that have a specified amount of sales in dollars or retail floor space from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer, with specified exceptions. The bill would also prohibit those stores from selling or distributing a recycled paper bag at the point of sale unless the store makes that bag available for purchase for not less than $0.10.

The bill would also allow those stores, on or after July 1, 2015, to distribute compostable bags at the point of sale only in jurisdictions that meet specified requirements and at a cost of not less than $0.10.

The bill would require these stores to meet other specified requirements on and after July 1, 2015, regarding providing reusable grocery bags to customers, including distributing those bags only at a cost of not less than $0.10.

The bill, on and after July 1, 2016, would additionally impose these prohibitions and requirements on convenience food stores, foodmarts, and entities engaged in the sale of a limited line of goods, or goods intended to be consumed off premises, and that hold a specified license with regard to alcoholic beverages.

An alarmed California Manufacturers & Technology Association has just sent out a press release opposing Bill 270: 

"SB 270 gives California manufacturers another reason to move jobs out of state," said CMTA President Jack Stewart. "Instead of killing jobs, lawmakers should be promoting ways to protect those who manufacture important and highly popular consumer products."

Stewart said SB 270 moves California in the wrong direction for the following reasons:

-- SB 270 ignores the fact that paper bags are reusable, compostable, and recyclable.  Paper bag manufacturers have worked with CalRecycle to ensure their bags are made from recycled material and comply with newly imposed regulations.

-- SB 270 meddles in the free marketplace.  It mandates that grocery stores charge consumers at least 10 cents per paper bag, with no price cap, and all proceeds are to be kept by the supermarkets.

-- SB 270 imposes an estimated $700-million tax on thousands of small businesses and millions of struggling and working class Californians who are already dealing with rising food, gasoline and energy prices. 

But as we all know, as goes California, so goes the nation. Soon we will all be mandated to haul our groceries, booze, and hamburgers around in organic-certified, fair-trade, shade-grown burlap sacks.

See also Reason TV's report on the plastic bag ban in Los Angeles:

NEXT: ACLU: Nebraska Cops 'Grossly Misuse' Tasers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Fuck environmentalists. These people have graduated from annoying to dangerous.

    1. We are so fucking far beyond the looking glass.

      How is that these clowns aren't being bounced out with extreme prejudice? "We want to make it illegal for your grocer to provide you with free bags to carry the items you just purchased from them. No, we get the money paid for the bags. What? Yes, we'll punish them if they give you bags for less than 10 cents each. No, we aren't the Cosa Nostra."

      And the simpletons happily trudge to the voting booth to re-elect these authoritarian fucks Every. Single. Time.

  2. San Francisco already does this, and it's a pain in the ass. Paper grocery bags have many handy uses, and it's annoying to have to pay extra for them.

    1. Same here in Silicon Valley. My wife has a collection of multi-use bags for each grocery chain at which she shops stashed in the back seat of her car. It's annoying. Additionally, it's a pain every time I have I have to pick up some single item in my car and I don't have an approved bag.

      1. Wait, they require you to have the right kinds of bags? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. They're enforcing vendor lock in for their competitors.

        If I ran a grocery store, I'd run a promotion: "Come in with a competitor's reusable grocery bag, and we'll donate a dollar to charity".

        1. I don't think that's what he means. I see Safeway bags in Trader Joe's and vice versa all the time. Nobody cares.

    2. Plastic bags too. I think I probably reuse 90% of the plastic grocery bags I get. If I didn't have them, I'd use some other kind of plastic bag that probably takes up more landfill space.

      1. I use the plastic bags to line the bathroom wastebaskets, and the paper bags to line the cat boxes.

      2. plastic bag that probably takes up more landfill space.

        So you claim to be some sort of scientist.

        Is plastic in anyway bad for the environment?

        I mean if it is in the sun it break down pretty damn quickly and if it is underground and will last 1000s of years then isn't it basically inert and as bad for the environment as a rock is underground?

        My understanding of Organic Chem tells me any chemicals plastics might release in a land fill cannot be any worse, and probably better because of its slow break down, then fall leafs from a tree.

  3. California: a stupidest state, or the stupidest state?

    1. Unfortunately, California is hardly alone.

      The nearest large city to me instigated a plastic bag ban with a mandatory paper bag fee. Thanks to idiotic land use regulations, the grocery stories (and any other similar businesses) are inside the city limits so I as a non-resident can't do a damn thing about it and the city politicians don't give a shit about listening to people like me.

      Now other stores that weren't subject to the ban are jumping on the bandwagon and blaming the city when people complain.

      I wish the bag banners would take their last plastic bag and put it over their heads until breathing ceases.

  4. Oh, man, I guess they'll have to issue a $.10 coupon on each bag they use.

    1. they = stores?

      Because if the reaction around here is anything to go by, mandatory fees and minimum bag prices are a gift to the stores. Bags are a cost to them and if customers use less and (partially) compensate for the ones used, stores are happy to do so and place the customers' ire onto the government.

      1. until customers start asking cashiers to put items back because they underestimated the storage capacity of their burlap sacks.

  5. Next up: A law prohibiting you from purchasing more groceries than you can carry using only your hands on one trip. Gaia isn't exactly happy about the energy used to create those reuseable bags, either.

    1. I actually do that quite often when I go to the grocery store. Keeps me from spending too much money if I don't grab a basket or cart and limit myself to what I can carry.

      1. Sucks when you don't feel like grocery shopping every two days, though.

        1. I mean when I stop in for a couple things on the way home from work, as opposed to going shopping on the weekend. It's easy to end up spending a bunch of money. Especially if you're hungry.

  6. When the kid was in diapers I was collecting plastic grocery bags from coworkers. They make great diaper disposal units.

    1. They're the standard "pick up after your dog" bags, too.

  7. Why does California hate children? What are they supposed to cover their schoolbooks in now?

    If only that "split California into six states" movement had a chance of succeeding, some of this idiocy could be minimized and the spread contained.

    1. "split California into six states"

      ^ This.

      With San Francisco as an independent city-state.

      1. city-state; prison complex -- to MAY to; to MAH to.

        1. As long as their decisions don't affect me, I'm okay.

      2. Where did you get the idea that San Francisco would allow any independence? What was the stupid Sylvester Stallone movie with the 3 seashells toilets? It pretty well described what it would be like.

    2. I'm voting for it, that's for sure.

  8. Fuckit. I'm just going to start rolling my whole shopping cart up ramps into the bed of my soot-belching diesel pickup with the self-propelled lawnmower tow unit. Then when I am done unloading back home, I'll fire up the smelter and melt that fucker into an ingot to take to the.metal recycler for cash.

  9. Is there even any data on why the bags are harmful? I can think of quite a few activities that humans engage in that produces way more pointless waste.

    I can only think this is just the age-old plastic vs. paper debate spiraling out of control. I remember about 20 years ago in Berkeley-Oakland the greener-than-thou types started getting in tiffs over which type of bag was incorrect.

    Paper bags kill trees. On the other hand, plastic is evil and non-biodegradable. Both are recyclable, so even score on that one. Bags brought from home have to be washed, which wastes water and power. If you don't wash them, they can spread ickies.

    If only we could determine which micro-effect is most disastrous, we would know what to do! Best just to ban everything, to be on the safe side.

    1. In the mind of an environmentalist, every single-use item is evil and should be replaced by a multi-use item.

      I can only imagine what is going to happen when they turn their attention to toilet paper -- you do know what the three shells are for right?

      1. +1 Taco Bell

    2. Is there even any data on why the bags are harmful? I can think of quite a few activities that humans engage in that produces way more pointless waste.

      The usual arguments that the hairshirt-wearers make to get these laws passed are:

      (1) Manufacture of the bags has a bigger carbon footprint than alternatives; and

      (2) The bags aren't disposed of properly, and end up as litter that costs millions of dollars to clean up every year.

      I've tried arguing with these people. I've tried pointing out that municipalities have to pick up litter anyway, and that paper bags cost just as much as plastic bags to dispose of. I've tried pointing out that reusable grocery bags are all fine and good until you have to clean them; that if you don't you're risking some pretty horrible food-borne diseases, and that if you do you're exacerbating the fucking water crisis.

      They do not care. This isn't a rational approach to a policy problem. This is people passing laws so they can feel better about themselves.

  10. You really think this modern temperance movement is going to allow you to buy booze for much longer? They won't need a Constitutional Amendment this time either, since they are already federally banning other drugs without one.

  11. Ron Bailey appears to have been recently re-assigned to full-time "Nut-Punch Duties"

    he has a trifecta today

    1. He has some hard training ahead before he can speed-bag your nutsack like Balko could.

  12. now they are coming after paper bags

    What is a amusing is paper bags are a great way to sequester CO2.

    Tree grows by pulling CO2 from air then gets cut down and made into bags which end up in land fills which will biodegrade over 1000s of years.

  13. Speaking of state-mandated solutions to non-existent 'problems', I don't know if people have seen it or not, but there's a piece @ the Foundation for Economic Eduation on, "Unicorn Governance" which is quite good reading.

    "they may not immediately see why "the State" that they can imagine is a unicorn. So, to help them, I propose what I (immodestly) call "the Munger test."

    Go ahead, make your argument for what you want the State to do, and what you want the State to be in charge of.

    Then, go back and look at your statement. Everywhere you said "the State," delete that phrase and replace it with "politicians I actually know, running in electoral systems with voters and interest groups that actually exist."

    If you still believe your statement, then we have something to talk about.

    This leads to loads of fun, believe me....

    ...To tell them that their imaginations are wrong is useless. So long as we insist that our opponents are mistaken about the properties of "the State"?which doesn't exist in the first place, at least not in the way that statists imagine?then we will lose the attention of many sympathetic people who are primarily interested in consequences."

  14. Behold: the banality of the price of civilization.

  15. Apparently California doesn't enough crime since they apparently feel the need to make lawbreakers out of just about everyone.

  16. They banned single-use plastic bags in San Jose, where I live. Consequence: I shop the next town over, in Santa Clara, thereby depriving San Jose of municipal sales tax.

    I'm not sure what I'll do if they ban plastic bags statewide. Let's just say a move north to Washington state is looking more and more inviting.

  17. Hey, prole, shut up and eat your's not that dark in it my fault the concrete walls in your block absorb all the light from the one bulb you are allowed to have, comrade?

  18. I live in LA where no bags are allowed at most stores. It's quite hilarious (sad) to go to Walmart and watch as the slowest lines in the world become even slower because instead of having an efficient plastic bag carrousel (the only efficient aspect of checking-out at Walmart). The cashier has to place items on the carrousel (because no one is going to pay a buck or so for all the bags) and wait for the shopper to clear the area by placing items back in the cart before continuing on to the next couple of items. Most people have gotten pretty good about bringing their own bags to the grocery store, but the idea apparently eludes Walmart shoppers - except for me, of course.

    For me the biggest issue is now I have to go buy plastic bags so that I have something to pick up after my dogs when we go for walks.

  19. This is a stupid law, of course. That said, I wonder about the California Manufacturers & Technology Association's statement that it is effectively a tax on retailers. It sounds like a windfall for that group and that the effective tax falls on consumers who have a second use for the bags which they previously received as part of their purchases.

    More importantly, Reason should try to make a buck off of this. Sell reusable bags with pictures of SUVs on them or proclaiming "I Support Open Carry" or something.

  20. California is an amazing state. I'm constantly surprised by just how amazing it is. The unhealthiest state in the country, everything there causes cancer. The state has a wonderful climate, if it isn't on fire and running out of water because of no rain houses are being destroyed and people killed by mudslides. Politicians there get in front of cameras and proudly display their carefully maintained ignorance for everyone to see and people vote for them to control their lives for them anyway.

  21. This simply shows you how out of touch the political class has become. Bags, paper or plastic, are not actually free. Stores pay for them and pass those costs onto consumers.
    I can see why they make this mistake, as they often refer to "free" healthcare, "free" eduction and "free" money from the federal government.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.