It’s happening more and more. Governments are watching the plastic pile up in their waste facilities and looking for options. California legislators have backed a ban on plastic bags, pending a signing by Gov. Jerry Brown by Sept. 30. Other municipalities and states are considering similar steps.
The trend has already been picked up by hard-core environmentalists, who are aware of companies that produce reusable shopping bags. It isn’t uncommon to see shoppers pack up their goods in a durable cloth bag before heading home.
Hawaii’s Maui County has made it illegal for stores to package purchases in plastic. Despite opposition from those who make the bags, the movement is gathering strength. Reusable cloth shopping bags are being recommended as an eco-sensible option. Looking for suitable compromise, some are suggesting a ban on plastic bags coupled with financial incentives for the bag producers to retool to produce heavier bags that would save the landfills.
The problem is enormous. More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California every year, advocates associated with Californians Against Waste estimate. The group supports the California legislation to bar the use of plastic bags in commerce. In the coast state, there is concern that the bags get into the ocean, with potential harm to aquatic life.
Cathy Browne, general manager of Crown Poly, sees the problem from a different perspective. A strict ban on plastic bags without a compensating solution would result in heavy layoffs in businesses such as hers.
The California legislation didn’t slide easily through the process. There was heavy lobbying on both sides of the issue. A first version sponsored by State Sen. Alex Padilla, failed by three votes. Padilla has stubbornly kept the issue alive. “Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts and our rivers, steams and lakes,” he declared.
After close defeats, Padilla was able to align some of California’s bag-makers by offering the re-tooling option. Out-of-state manufacturers continued to campaign against his measure.
But the anti-plastic contingent seems to be gathering strength in other locations as well. It appears inevitable that reusable bags of cloth or other durable materials will be on the shoppers’ horizon before long.