We’ve known about it for years: Plastic bags are accumulating in California’s waterways, littering our neighborhoods and harming and killing wildlife. As the nation’s leading environmental state, California took the first step to solve the problem by passing the first statewide single-use plastic bag ban in 2014. CLCV supporters turned out in force to make your voices heard, and together we celebrated a major victory that was nearly a decade in the making.
But out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers, who rake in an estimated $150 million annually in sales to retailers in California, weren’t taking “no” for an answer. They paid signature-gatherers more than $3 million to put an initiative on the November 8, 2016 ballot that could repeal our groundbreaking law. The bag makers’ initiative also put implementing the law on hold until after the November 2016 election, allowing plastic bags to continue to be distributed in stores throughout areas of California with no local bag ban in place.
It’s critical for California’s environment that we vote to restore the bag ban into law. The ballot measure next year will be an up or down vote on the law itself, so a vote in favor of the ballot measure will be a vote in favor of the bag ban.
We need to build momentum to re-affirm our state’s commitment to environmental protection by passing the bag ban referendum on November 8, 2016 – and we can’t afford to wait. Out-of-state bag makers like South Carolina-based Hilex Poly are going to spend many more millions to pass their underhanded repeal of our landmark law, so we have to start right now in order to preserve California’s first-in-the-nation ban on wasteful plastic bags.
Single-use plastic bags pose a unique threat to California’s environment. They’re blown out of trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills, and frequently end up in streams, rivers or the ocean. Once in our waterways, they don’t biodegrade, and soak up toxins in the water. They break into smaller and smaller pieces and are consumed by wildlife including fish, turtles and whales that mistake them for food. They’re especially dangerous to sea turtles, who may mistake them for jellyfish, a main food source.
California use up to 20 billion single-use plastic bags every year. Only 5 percent are recycled because they produce very little recoverable plastic, and gum up recycling machinery. Cities spend exorbitant amounts of time and money removing plastic bags from their recyclables stream. Not only are they too expensive to recycle, single-use plastic bags are costing taxpayers millions to clean up. Every year California cities spend an estimated $34 million to $107 million to manage plastic bag litter in our state.
Media outlets are calling the battle over California’s landmark ban of single-use plastic bags “the most costly, high-profile fight over litter and recycling the state has seen in three decades.” What happens here in California matters. The outcome of the referendum during next year’s election sets the stage for local, national and global efforts to ban the bag. If they’re successful at stopping California’s law from taking effect, bag manufacturers will certainly continue their costly, underhanded delay tactics like filing lawsuits and repealing state bag bans.
What’s more, a scientific study released earlier this year estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans each year—the equivalent of five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. The study concluded the amount of the debris is likely to increase greatly over the next decade unless nations take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly.
That progress, like so much environmental progress in the nation and the world, starts with California. Working together, the environmental community passed the bag ban in 2014, and with your help, we recently passed a law to ban plastic microbeads from personal care products. We have to stand up to the plastic bag industry and affirm our state’s commitment to ending plastic pollution in our oceans, waterways and communities.
Thank you for signing the pledge and standing up against Big Plastic polluters.