A plastic bag ban, Senate Bill 270 , has made it to the California legislature. The bill bans single-use plastic bags, allows paper and reusable bag distributions with a minimum 10 cent fee, and incentivizes plastic bag manufacturers to switch to reusable bags. Plastic bag bans already exist in 100 Californian municipalities. If the ban passes, it would extend statewide – but will it be worth it?
Advocates for the ban claim benefits to the environment, citing research on plastics pollution in the Pacific Ocean, the amount of energy needed to create the bags, and plastic bag harm to marine animals. The environmental argument, alongside a $2 million stimulus to convert to reusable bags, has won over two large plastic bag manufacturers.
Furthermore, the ban is meant to promote eco-conscious attitudes and behaviors among consumers. For example, a similar plastic bag ban in China instilled proactive behavior toward energy saving and environmental protection.
But, even proponents of the ban suggest its immediate environmental benefits would be limited. According to a University of Brighton report, plastic bags make up just 1% of household waste, and only 6% of bags are disposed of after first time use. Also, the California bill favors paper bags, which research suggests are more harmful pollutants than plastic bags. So, the ban will likely not inspire widespread environmental benefits, but it could arouse more eco-conscious behavior among Golden State citizens.