Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To bag or not to bag?


Governor Jerry Brown has implemented a statewide ban on plastic bags that will be put in effect in July. However, the plastic bag industry has gotten involved to block the ban. Now, the law signed by Gov. Brown will be suspended until the November 2016 elections when the issue will be challenged. Presently, the ban is on a city-by-city basis (138 cities - 37% of California) and not statewide, thus despite the suspension the local bans will stay. The battle over this measure is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, making it the most expensive environmental California proposition.

It is unfortunate that we have to go through this process because the polls show that Californians overwhelmingly support the ban at 59% in support and 34% against. It would be nice to be able to spend this money toward other environmental efforts. The reality is that many people are already used to this ban and have changed their lifestyle. I feel that the argument is that the money we pay for the bags should go towards an environmental cause and not back to the merchant. I do however sympathize with the plastic bag manufacturers, but I would be much more supportive of them if they were able to produce a zero impact bag (biodegradable).

Questions:
Should state resources be used in the ban or should it be kept to local cities to decide?
What do you think should happen to the money spent on the bags?

3 comments:

ElizabethZhou7 said...

I think that state resources should not be used in the ban as it doesn't really matter what the state chooses to do in the end as local bans will continue to stay. Cities should decide on whether or not they want to ban plastic bags as each city is different and may have different circumstances. Additionally, the people who live in those cities should have a say in what they would like to have happen as it ultimately affects their lifestyles. It wouldn't be wise to spent state resources on this ban, as these resources could be invested in other areas that could benefit the state more effectively. As for the money spent on the bags, I agree with you Catherine in that I think this money should go towards environmental causes to help reduce litter and pollution.

Miranda Brinkley said...

I think that the ban being put on hold kind of messes up the whole system, because as mentioned already people have already adjusted to the ban being put into place. While I can definitely see the economic downside of the ban, in which plastic bags are an upside because they are a lot cheaper, but a lot worse for the environment. I think the bans should stay locally determined because as Elizabeth has already pointed out, ultimately the people in each local community are the ones affected by the ban (or lack thereof). The plastic bag companies are going to be hurt for sure if the ban continues and is further implemented, but I think as a business they ought to be held accountable for their environmental impact, just as other companies that create pollution are through taxes and other means.

Elias Bermeo said...

In my opinion it's unfortunate that the ban was blocked, but on the bright side there is still hope that the local bans can grow in numbers and help keep pollution down, as Elizabeth and Catherine mentioned. It seems like funding an extensive campaign to try to vote down the referendum would be wasteful state spending, but I have a concern. Elizabeth and Miranda pointed out that just the local communities are the ones affected by bans or lack thereof. However, when it comes to pollution this isn't exactly true. Litter doesn't stay put; one community's issue can easily become that of a neighboring community. This is especially true for coastal cities. Plastic bags and other pollution can land on the shores of a city hundreds of miles away. Although I realize it's idealistic, from an environmental viewpoint it's better to have sweeping state mandates for these issues.

Plastic bag production and consumption are both artificially cheap, since the costs of pollution and lasting environmental impacts are not accounted for. And as Mr. Silton discussed, businesses not assuming the costs of externalities is the number one reason why the market is almost always right, instead of always right. This lack of accountability is why I don't feel a lot of sympathy towards plastic bag companies as they're in danger of losing a large market.