Plastic bags contribute to the pollution of California’s ocean and beaches.
- Californians use approximately 16 billion plastic bags per year – more than 400 annually per person.
- Less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled. Instead, they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, clogging streams, fouling beaches, or floating out to sea.
- Plastic trash threatens ocean ecosystems.
- The city of San Francisco estimated that the taxpayer cost to subsidize the recycling, collection, and disposal of plastic and paper bags amounts to as much as 17 cents per bag. Applied to California as a whole, that adds up to more than $1 billion per year.
More than 80 national and local governments around the world have taken action to protect the ocean by reducing the use of plastic bags.
- At least 20 nations and 47 local governments have passed bans on distributing specific kinds of throw-away plastic bags, including the nations of Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, Macedonia, and Bangladesh; the states of Maharashtra, India and Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the cities of Karachi, Pakistan and Telluride, Colorado.
- Approximately 26 nations and local communities have established fee programs to reduce plastic bag use and/or increase the use of reusable alternatives, including Botswana, China, Hong Kong, Wales, Ireland, Israel, Canada’s Northwest Territories, Toronto, Mexico City, and Washington, D.C.
Bans and meaningful fee programs effectively reduce plastic bag pollution.
- Bans and fee programs quickly reduce plastic bag distribution.
- Fee – In 2002, Ireland established a 28 U.S. cents per bag fee, and saw plastic bag use drop by 90 percent within the first year.
- Fee – Washington, D.C., implemented a much smaller 5 cent tax on plastic bags, the number of bags distributed by food retailers fell from 22.5 million per month to 3.3 million per month.
- Ban – San Francisco, the year after banning plastic bags at pharmacies and supermarkets in 2007, businesses distributed 127 million fewer plastic bags, and cut overall bag waste reaching the city landfill by up to 10 percent.
Fourteen city and county governments in California have taken successful action to reduce plastic bag pollution.
- Fourteen California cities and counties have bans on plastic bags in effect, including Long Beach, Santa Monica, San Jose, San Francisco, and Pasadena.
- Five of these communities, including Marin County and San Jose, have also authorized mandatory charges on paper bags to encourage citizens to use reusable bags.
Much more progress can be made to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean and transform our throw-away culture.
- Education and recycling cannot keep pace with the generation of plastic bag pollution. Despite a 2006 law requiring retailers to place bag recycling bins in front of their stores, less than 5 percent of bags are recycled.
- To make a real impact, all California cities and counties should restrict the use of plastic bags, and advocate for similar action at the state level.
From the Frontier Group.