Plastic bag manufacturers mobilize to fight ban

Andrea Seet/Staff

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A group of plastic bag manufacturers is seeking to gather enough signatures to suspend California’s upcoming ban on single-use plastic bags.

The group, called the American Progressive Bag Alliance, opposes plastic bag bans and taxes. It received permission Friday from the California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to begin collecting signatures in order to qualify the referendum, which would postpone the law and bring it to the November 2016 ballot.

SB 270, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 30, will ban plastic bags from grocery stores and pharmacies with some exceptions beginning July 2015 and will extend to convenience and liquor stores in July 2016. Alameda County’s Reusable Bag Ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, banned businesses from distributing single-use plastic bags.

The group needs 504,760 signatures, equivalent to 5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election, by Dec. 29 in order to qualify the referendum and challenge the bill.

The statement from the the alliance says that the ban will “jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment, and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets” if allowed to go into effect.

President and CEO William Carteaux of the Plastics Industry Trade Association — which represents nearly 900,000 workers in the U.S. plastics industry — said in a statement supporting the group that the ban would hurt consumers and does not help the environment.

“The lack of science or logic in SB 270 sets a disconcerting precedent for what legislators could do under the guise of environmental stewardship,” Carteaux said in a statement.

But co-author of the bill Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, said in a statement after the bill passed that environmental concerns and the high costs of cleaning up plastic bags back the bill.

“This new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year,” Padilla said in a statement. “Moving from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags is common sense.”

Many Berkeley vendors will not see much change, because the city already implemented a similar plastic bag ban on Jan. 1, 2013.

Nearby at Sam’s Market on Telegraph Avenue, cashier Ramy Ayyad said he is behind conservative plastic bag use and would not sign the referendum.

On Northside, Mohamed Alameri of the Campus Store said the ban could be a positive change if applied to every store, but if some businesses such as restaurants are permitted the bags, then he should be able to use them as well. He still uses plastic bags because they are more efficient, and he said he would sign the referendum to bring the ban to a vote.

Contact Frances Fitzgerald at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.