Bagging Single-Use Plastic Bags in the 'Nation State' of California: News/Analysis/Commentary
We last reported on and wrote about AB 1998, the California legislation that if passed would ban single-use plastic carrier bags from being used in the Golden State's grocery stores, retail stores over 10,000 square-feet that have pharmacies, and eventually convenience stores (in 2013), in this July 20, 2010 piece: California's First-in-the-Nation Plastic Carrier Bag Ban Legislation Looks to Be On its Way to Victory.
In addition to banning single-use plastic carrier bags, the legislation requires grocers and the other retailers to sell paper grocery sacks for a minimum of five cents each, which is designed to encourage reusable bag use by shoppers. California law already requires grocers to offer reusable shopping bags for sale in-store. AB 1098 maintains that requirement.
Since our July 20 story, the bill, which passed the California State Assembly and was then sent to the State Senate, has passed in the final key Senate Committee - Appropriations - and is awaiting a floor vote by the full California State Senate. That vote will take place before the end of August, according to our sources.
Passage in the California State Senate is the last leg of the legislative journey for AB 1098. And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will sign the bill if it's passed by the Senate.
At present, political odds-makers in Sacramento tell us the bill currently has majority support for passage in the State Senate.
However, supporters of the single-use plastic carrier bag ban in California, which would be the first state in the nation to enact such a law, aren't letting that majority support for the bill stop them from launching an all out campaign to win on the eve of the floor vote by the Golden State's majority Democratic State Senate.
In fact, some of the last minute pro-AB 1098 campaigning is down right humorous - but by design.
For example, one of the single-use plastic carrier bag ban legislation's supporters, the environmental watchdog organization Heal the Bay, today released a short film it calls a "mockumentary," designed to promote passage of AB 1998. The short film, which is narrated by Academy-Award winning actor Jeremy Irons, charts the "lifecycle" of a plastic bag to promote awareness of plastic pollution in California and beyond, according to the environmental group.
The "mockumentary," titled "The Majestic Plastic Bag," is filmed in the style of a Nature Channel documentary program and tracks the "migration" of a plastic bag from a grocery store parking lot to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" in the Pacific Ocean.
Though lighthearted in tone, the short film hammers home the stark reality of California's plastic bag pollution situation: 19 billion bags are used every year, creating over 123,000 tons of unnecessary waste, costing taxpayers $25 million in cleanup costs a year, says Heal the Bay President Mark Gold. "Less than five percent of all single-use plastic bags are recycled, with many ending up as litter and in the ocean as plastic pollution," Gold says. Gold, explaining the philosophy behind using humor to make a serious environmental point in support of the single-use plastic bag ban.
"Rather than lecturing the audience, we wanted to create a film that would capture people's attention with humor," Gold says. "At the same time, we saw this as subversive way to make viewers realize the serious, far-reaching problem of single-use plastic bag pollution."
The "mockumentary," which was shot on location throughout Los Angeles, was developed by director Jeremy Konner of Southern California's Partizan Pictures, along with the the advertising agency DDB LA. The film had "little to no budget" and was created solely with donated time, Heal the Bay's Gold says.
Heal the Bay won't be getting any protests about the short film from California's grocers, since the industry supports the plastic bag ban bill through its trade organization, the California Grocers Association.
The 'Bag Monster'
Heal the Bay's short film comes on the heals of another humorous campaign in favor of AB 1098, which was held on August 12 at Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco.
The star of that pro-single-use plastic carrier bag ban legislation event was the "Bag Monster," otherwise known as Andy Keller, the inventor of the popular Chico Bag reusable shopping bag. Actually the "Bag Monster" is a costume made out of 500 single-use plastic carrier bags which Keller created to wear as a way to demonstrate the impact the plastic bags have on the environment. It's estimated each shopper in the U.S. on average uses 500 plastic carrier bags each year.
Keller now has numerous volunteers who wear the the "Bag Monster" costumes at special events, like the one on August 12 at Ghiradelli Square, which was a rally in support of AB 1098.
Keller and a bunch of other "Bag Monsters" staged what they called a "100 Bag Monster March" through the popular San Francisco shopping venue on August 12 in support of California's single-use plastic carrier bag ban.
In addition to the March, the event featured a press conference by Keller and supporters, as the video below details.
Press Conference: Part 2
It's not over until it's over though
In contrast to these and other activities from the various pro-single-use plastic carrier bag ban groups on the eve of the California State Senate's vote, those against the ban, including the plastic carrier bag industry trade association, are doing very little overt campaigning against the legislation.
Instead, opponents have been focusing most of their efforts on lobbying legislators. However, with such widespread support for the legislation, including from the California Grocers Association, the single-use plastic carrier bag industry appears, based on its low-level of campaign activity and even direct lobbying, to be seeing the writing on the wall that the bill will pass, and as he has said he will do, signed by the Governor.
But we doubt that will be the end of the story. Instead, it's likely the single-use plastic bag industry is saving its efforts - and cash - to fight the plastic bag ban once it is passed and signed into law by the Governor, something the industry has been successful at doing against bans in California cities such as Oakland and others. Stay tuned.
[Readers: Fresh & Easy Buzz has been reporting on, writing about, and offering analysis and commentary on the single-use plastic carrier bag, reusable bag, and related topics and issues since early 2008. Click here, here, here and here to read.]