Paper or Plastic? No More

Paper or Plastic? No More


Today, September 30, 2014, California took a major step to eliminate plastic from our landfills. Beginning in July 2015 clerks at the larger grocery stores will be asking ‘paper or plastic’ no more. In 2016 it will be a requirement for all such businesses to eliminate one of the worst pollutants in our environment.

Stores that do not sell food items will be exempt. Plastic bags available for meat and vegetables will still be allowed. The law also applies to pharmacies, convenience stores and liquor shops.

Reusable bags are the norm in Europe. Here are the simple, undeniable facts about plastic bag usage.

Over one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year.

A single bag will require 1,000 years to degrade.

The United States uses 100 billion single-use plastic bags a year, costing retailers about four billion dollars a year.

Plastic bags are the second most common type of refuse in the ocean; only cigarette butts surpass their numbers.

Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down, and every square mile of our oceans has nearly 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

It is estimated that only three tenths of a percent up to a maximum of three percent of plastic bags are recycled.

SB270 received a great deal of opposition citing the loss of revenue to manufacturers of plastic bags, and the cost of providing paper bags by grocery stores and similar business. Recycling vs. banning the bags was a consideration, but statistics prove a very minimal percentage of customers would adhere to the recommendation. A minimal charge of ten cents for paper bags will be allowed. However, those on public assistance will not be charged. The goal is to have consumers purchase reusable bags. Although current manufacturers of plastic bags will seek a revocation of the bill, they will receive assistance to produce reusable bags and eliminate plastic.

The usual attack by the bag’s manufacturers has already begun. The environment vs. capitalism will be an argument lasting until the end of time in America.

“If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would 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,” Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.

Governor Jerry Brown placed the passage of the law in perspective. “This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a signing statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Consumers in California were interviewed as they left grocery stores.

“With the amount of waste that we produce, we can try to help out by slightly inconveniencing ourselves,” said Megan Schenfeld, 29, whose arms were full of groceries in plastic bags after leaving reusable bags at home.

Robert Troxell who is retired and 69-years-old claimed the fee for paper bags would increase the cost of food for retirees living on fixed incomes. He lives in a hotel for low-income seniors and shops daily because he has access to a very small refrigerator.

“It becomes a flat tax on senior citizens,” said Troxell, who lives off social security and other government assistance. “I have not disagreed with Jerry Brown on anything — until this.”

The obvious solution is reusable bags. The price for these are as low as one dollar per bag. Plastic bag manufactures will receive two million dollars in loans to alter their production to reusable bags.

A personal note here. I have been using reusable bags for years. They hold more, don’t tear, and insure that I make less trips from the car to my kitchen. I worked as a ‘bag boy’ when I was very young. Paper bags are more stable when the items are arranged properly, and fewer bags can be used. Either solution surpasses flimsy plastic bags which tear at the slightest contact with a sharp corner of an orange juice container.

James Turnage

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James Turnage is currently a writer and editor for The Public Slate, a subsidiary of the Guardian Liberty Voice. He is also a novelist who is in the process of publishing his fourth effort. His responsibilities include Editing, reporting , managing.