iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Lisa Kaas Boyle

Lisa Kaas Boyle

Posted: August 25, 2010 03:13 PM

As the California Senate sits poised to vote on what could be game-changing legislation in the American battle to control plastic waste, the author of the Single-Use Bag Reduction Act (AB 1998), California Assemblymember Julia Brownley, delivered a blistering expose of the false figures being used by the plastics industry trade association, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), to oppose her bill.

Assemblymember Brownley appeared at UCLA's James Bridges Theater to address a crowd gathered for the Plastic Pollution Coalition's screening of the documentary Bag It! and other short films concerning the environmental and economic impacts of single-use plastic bags.

Brownley played radio ads, television ads and showed enlarged images of mailers all being employed by The ACC in an attempt to defeat the largest alliance of supporters ever amassed in California to support single-use bag reduction. Environmental groups like Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica based ocean protection non-profit that conducts volunteer beach clean-ups in the Los Angeles Area, have long been seeking legislative solutions to the plastic bag pollution that inundates California rivers, storm drains, beaches and our offshore waters.

However, the present legislative effort, Julia Brownley's Assembly Bill 1998, is the first to attract the support of the California Grocers Association, labor unions, and a wide variety of businesses. Even Hollywood has voiced its support for the legislation. The ACC is spearheading opposition to the proposed legislation.

The ACC advertisements are misleading in many ways, according to Assemblymember Brownley. The ads predict a loss of jobs when relatively few single-use plastic bags are made in California and there is the opportunity for new green jobs producing reusable bags in this state to meet a burgeoning need.

In addition, the ads talk about a new bureaucracy when none is called for in this legislation. The ads suggest that California will be deforested because people will switch to paper bags when the impact of similar legislation in other jurisdictions has been a very successful switch to reusable bags, not paper bags. AB 1998 would also up the post-consumer recycled content of paper bags to save trees.

Despite claims made by the ACC, California will actually save money with this legislation as millions of dollars of our state and local budgets are currently used to fund park and beach clean-ups, to clean storm drains and roadways, and to landfill plastic bags. Finally, the ACC ads fail to note that provisions are made in AB 1998 to supply reusable bags to individuals who cannot afford them.

The ACC used similar tactics, spending millions to kill an ordinance in Seattle, and the stakes for the plastics industry are much higher with the proposed statewide ban in California. However, California is already home to several local plastic bag bans, and many other jurisdictions plan to enact them in the near future after recovering from ACC lawsuits and ACC backed legislation prohibiting fees on plastic bags in California.

Some jurisdictions have been sued by the ACC requiring them to produce Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) evaluating any environmental impacts of banning plastic bags, a seemingly perverse use of the EIR requirement. Los Angeles County recently issued a draft EIR that finds positive environmental benefits by reducing plastic pollution through its proposed legislation. Many businesses support a statewide ordinance as more business-friendly than a patchwork of local regulations that are not uniform.

Plastic Bags are the number one consumer product in America. Most were made in China until they were banned in that country in 2008 for their costly environmental damage. Mexico City also recently banned plastic bags joining more than 40 jurisdictions worldwide that ban single-use plastic bags, amounting to more than 25% of the world's population.

California Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger has voiced his intention to sign AB 1998 into law if it reaches his desk. To learn more about AB 1998 and to help this law reach the Governor's desk, please respond to this action.

Also, please enjoy and share the following Public Service Announcements about AB 1998.