PALISADES PARK — Eco-groups Environment California and Heal the Bay joined forces Tuesday to call for the passage of a bill by a local legislator that would end the use of plastic shopping bags statewide.
The bill, put forward by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee must pass it on to the full Senate, which has only four days before the end of the legislative session to send it to the governor’s office.
If not, another lawmaker will have to take up the cause — Brownley terms out before the beginning of the next session, and is in the middle of a congressional run for the 26th District.
“A uniform, statewide bag ban policy is inevitable,” Brownley said. “It simply makes sense not to waste our resources on collecting plastic bag trash. The public can accelerate a ban by contacting their legislative representatives to demand one, and by rallying support across the state for a uniform bag ban policy.”
Santa Monica city officials passed a ban on single-use plastic bags in January 2011. City officials started enforcing it in September of that year.
The idea was to put a stop to the approximately 26 million single-use plastic bags given out every year in Santa Monica, bags that contributed to litter and green house gas emissions and cost residents and other taxpayers in clean-up and landfill fees.
Santa Monica’s contribution is only a drop in the bucket compared to the 19 billion bags used each year in California.
While over 50 cities and counties have passed their own bans, including the city and county of Los Angeles, a statewide ban like the one Brownley proposes would make a major impact.
Only 5 percent of plastic bags are actually recycled, according to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. Many of the others find their ways into the ocean, where fish and other wildlife mistake them for food.
Those bags leach chemicals into the water, and could be impacting humans that eat the fish, said Heide Chuek, a clean energy associate with Environment California.
“Nothing that we use for a few minutes should pollute our oceans for hundreds of years,” she said.
While the ban on plastic bags seems to be gaining steam, so does the opposition.
A conservative think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis released a study this month declaring that the ban on plastic bags had delivered a major blow to businesses in Los Angeles County.
According to the study, 80 percent of the stores in unincorporated parts of the county reported a decrease in sales averaging 5.7 percent.
The study also concluded that paper bags create more landfill waste than plastic, and plastic bags use 71 percent less energy during production than paper bags.
The study struck Dean Kubani, the director of the Office for Sustainability and the Environment, as fishy.
“It reads to me like a study prepared to fit a predetermined conclusion,” Kubani said.
Only 3 percent of the almost 800 stores contacted actually returned a survey, and the report uses very selective data regarding the environmental impacts of various types of bags while making definitive statements about the information.
“Those statements are (simply) untrue and are not borne out by rigorous scientific analysis,” Kubani said.
The report tries to make the case that businesses will suffer if areas no longer allow plastic bags. Jim Cragg, a businessman in the sewing industry and founder of Green Vets LA, begs to differ.
Green Vets LA is a nonprofit that employs veterans to sew reusable bags out of old military materials. Banning plastic bags would create thousands of jobs, Cragg said.
“Sustainability is a good business practice,” Cragg said.
Santa Monica has ordered 26,000 bags from Green Vets LA since 2009.