DeAnne Toto

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Better off?

Editor's Column

November 10, 2014
 

DeAnne Toto

In September, California became the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation banning “single-use” plastic bags. As of July 2015, grocery stores, pharmacies and other food retailers in California can no longer provide single-use plastic bags to their customers and instead must offer paper or reusable bags for 10 cents. The law also sets environmental standards for these alternatives.

Environmentalists have celebrated the move, with Adrianna Quintero of the Natural Resources Defense Council saying single-use plastic bags put marine life at risk and prioritize short-term convenience over long-term sustainability.

Opponents of the ban have been permitted to begin collecting signatures to place a referendum on the ballot in 2016 that would repeal the legislation.

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association President and CEO William R. Carteaux supports the referendum to repeal California’s ban, saying, “We do not believe that in passing SB 270 California lawmakers acted in the public interest, and we trust that the public will repeal it at the ballot box.”

While I recognize plastic litter has a devastating effect on wildlife and the environment, I question whether the proposed alternatives actually are better solutions from an environmental perspective. And plastic bags definitely come in handy when it’s time to clean out my cat’s litter box and for collecting my recyclables. (My neighborhood has yet to move to 90-gallon carts for collecting recyclables, though that day is coming shortly.) Even without “single-use” plastic grocery bags, I’ll still be using plastic bags to collect my recyclables and to dispose of my cat’s used litter, and in those cases, the small plastic garbage or recycling bags I used surely will be single-use.

Apparently, I’m in good company regarding reusing plastic grocery bags, as Carteaux says 90 percent of Americans do so, “despite the fact that SB 270’s proponents have attempted to brand plastic bags as ‘single-use.’”

Additionally, plastic bags can be recycled and used to make building materials such as decking, fencing and playground equipment, Carteaux says. “Moreover, they consume less than 4 percent of the water, generate less than 80 percent of the waste and require less than 70 percent of the energy necessary to manufacture their paper counterparts,” he adds.

Carteaux takes issue with the “lack of science or logic in SB 270,” adding, “This must be the beginning of a discussion that plastics recyclers, suppliers, manufacturers and processors have about the future of the industry,” warning that bans could be extended to other plastic products. “The APBA (American Progressive Bag Alliance) has started this conversation, and we hope the entire plastics supply chain chooses to be a part of it.”

What perspective will you contribute to the conversation?

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