Evil Incarnate

UPDATE – July 23, 2009: In response to a proposed plastic bag fee in Seattle, the American Chemistry Council has invested more than $1 million dollars in opposition, the largest amount that an industry has ever spent on an initiative in the city. The election is August 18, 2009.


I have seen and heard pure evil, and it resides at http://www.stopthebagtax.com/ . Those long time bastions of environmental protection, the American Chemistry Council and the California Film Extruders and Converters Association, have ponied up big time for a website and widespread radio campaign in the time honored tradition of the Homeland Security Council’s orange alert.  When the going gets tough, scare the living hell out of the public to get them on your side.

The polluters are scared to death about Assembly Bill 2058, the Levine, Davis and Brownley bill, that would put a quarter fee on all plastic bags from large retail stores. Over 90% of the revenues from the fees will go to local government to fight urban runoff pollution. The ad frightens the hell out of the listener by stating that the legislation will cost the average family $400 a year if it passes. One BIG assumption.  The ad assumes that people will still be wasteful and extravagant enough to collect 1600 bags a year from stores, despite the quarter cost.  I’m thinking that there aren’t too many people out there that will continue to shell out a quarter a bag.  BYO Bag will be the new order of the day.

Also, I’m pretty sure that the polluters know that disposal of plastic bags is not occurring for free.  San Francisco estimated that plastic bag disposal and recycling cost the city about 17 cents a bag.  Guess who pays for that?  Not the bag manufacturers or petrochemical industry that produced the bags, that’s for damn sure.  You the taxpayer foots the bill.  Also, plastic bags clog catch basin screens and catch basins, create urban blight on streets and in rivers and bays, and they wreak havoc on marine life.  Does the polluter pay for environmental harm? No again.

AB 2058 will help break a 19 billion plastic bag a year addiction.  The polluters know that the bill will be the beginning of the end for the disposable plastic bag manufacturers. The polluters know that at a 1 to 4% recycling rate, Californians can NOT recycle their way to a solution to the plastic bag problem. They don’t care.  The stop the bag tax campaign is a pathetic sign of desperation, but more importantly, the  ad campaign is a call to action for all who care about our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

Check out the Heal the Bay website and send out an action alert to your Senator urging them to support AB 2058.

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11 Responses

  1. […] and paper bags to discourage usage, 2) cleanup efforts, and 3) reclycling campaigns; and that if you take one element out (because of pressure from powerful moneyed interests), the efforts will most likely fail to solve […]

  2. […] and paper bags to discourage usage, volunteer cleanup efforts, and reclycling campaigns; and that if you take one element out (because of pressure from powerful moneyed interests), the efforts will most likely fail to make a significant […]

  3. Mr. Gold,

    While I am sure your motives are sincere in protecting the environment, it is obvious that your information is seriously flawed and your position is out of touch with practical realties regarding plastic grocery bags. AB2058 scares consumers not polluters.
    You are flexing your formidable political might in the wrong direction! What is needed here is a clear, objective view that is open to all of the practical and scientific facts.
    So please take some time to step back and take a fresh look at the real issues surrounding plastic bags. Please keep in mind that by far most people do not litter with their plastic bags, they REUSE them!
    Whether it as a kitchen trash bag or to store or transport leftovers, they reuse them!
    If you stay with your current position and are successful with banning plastic grocery sacks, millions of people will have to purchase trash bags for their kitchens and bathroom receptacles. While I am sure that the companies that make and sell trash bags are all for banning plastic grocery bags, after banning plastic bags in Ireland reports show trash bag sales went up 400 percent!
    Banning plastic grocery sacks is a horrible path for consumers and the environment. Trash bags are bigger and heavier than the plastic grocery sacks so they take up more room in the landfills and require more trucks to deliver. And trash bags that cost around 35 cents each is an additional burden to consumers.
    So the end result of AB2058 would be for everyone to be penalized for the actions of a few people who litter.
    Why not enforce existing litter laws? Many cities have litter laws in place that come with fines up to $1500, couldn’t this be a revenue source for cities to enforce the law while helping fund clean up costs?
    Reusable tote bags are not the answer! They are only part of the answer!
    You are probably too young to remember when the only bag option at the grocery store was paper bags. In those days, any and every time a wet or cold item was to be bagged, it first had to go into a wet pack white plastic bag. This prevented condensation or leakage from quite literally melting the paper bag.
    Let me give you an example: On your way home your partner calls you and asks that you stop and pick up some milk, chicken breasts and, a half gallon of ice cream. Your partner usually does the shopping and keeps the canvas tote bags. If you happen to carry spare tote bags or you have to ask for paper bags it does not matter, all three items, the milk, chicken and ice cream will have to put in separate plastic bags because they are cold or have a potential to leak.
    If plastic bags were not used, one of the two following scenarios would occur:
    If you used a paper bag, the condensation from the cold milk and ice cream would soften the paper bag and cause it to break. The same would apply to the chicken if the package leaked.
    If you used canvas tote bags and the condensation, chicken juice combo was not washed out and dried thoroughly in the near future you would get an ugly mold growth that could be very unhealthy! We all know some of the risks of exposure to mold.
    If the plastic grocery bags are banned the net effect on bag usage of your stopping at the store for a few items would be three smaller plastic bags and possibly one paper bag would be used instead of one plastic grocery bag!
    My family of five uses a combination of reusable totes and plastic grocery bags. The plastic grocery bags we get, we either reuse or recycle when we return to the store.
    If plastic grocery bags are banned we will be forced into only reusable bags and all the little plastic bags that will accompany them that are completely use less! And of course we will be forced into buying household trash bags. Or I guess we could pay the 25 cents to the grocery stores, they will love that! It effectively turns a cost item in to a profit center for the grocery chains!

    I believe your organization should be focusing on Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
    Not banning and indirect taxing!
    As long as you hold this position on plastic grocery bags we will not be donating to Heal the Bay anymore!

  4. In addition to the excellent arguments made in favor of AB 2058, I add the fact Fees are very effective. For example, in 2002 Ireland imposed a fee that is now the equivalent of 33 cents per bag and accompanied it with an awareness raising campaing. Within weeks, plastic bag usage decreased by 94%. The Irish law also made it illegal for grocery store chains to pay the fee on behalf of customers. This is essential to that law’s success. Without that provision, I imagine many grocery stores would opt to pay the fee and offer the bags (while increasing other costs) to cater to the wasteful habits of many customers. According to the NY Times article on this topic (Feb. 2, 2008), there are no plastic bag manufacturers in Ireland, so it was easier to pass a plastic bag fee there. The article I read interviewed several Irish people who seemed pleased that the country had acted forcefully and they had eliminated plastic bag blight.

    I also want to add my two cents on the paper issue. I find it appalling that AB 2058 was amended such that it no longer applies to paper bags. In an era of increasing global temperatures, we should view any threat to healthy forests as a threat to survival. The idea that a raised tree could be used for a single shopping trip and thrown away is reprehensible. At a minimum, AB 2058 should be amended again to require that all paper grocery bags be made of 100% post-consumer paper, as my grocery store provides in San Francisco, where plastic bags are banned. Still, recycling processes are energy and water intensive and often emit greenhouse gases. Clearly the best environmental option is to ban or tax all carryout grocery bags. We need to curb this culture of consumption. In SF, we are seeing a huge change at grocery stores. People really can bring reusable bags. It’s not that difficult.

  5. Mr. Prosser brings up a good point. A quick glance (I admit I did not read in detail :oP) of the bill seems to show paper bags were scratched out. http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_2051-2100/ab_2058_bill_20080630_amended_sen_v95.html

    Also, although I agree the use of disposable bags should and can be reduced, do you think this fee would be the best option at this time? Doesn’t enforcing this tax also use up government resources (taxpayer money)?

  6. Mr. Gold, I disagree with you on this issue. AB 2058 is a meaningless bill unless it includes a 25-cent fee on paper bags too. If the genuine goal is to influence a shift to reusable bags, placing a fee on one single-use bag versus another is silly. The majority of consumers will simply switch to paper bags, the more convenient option, which creates an environmental problem in itself. If you look at all of the facts available on single use bags, paper bags are an environmentally inferior option to plastic bags in aspects such as energy used to create and recycle, fuel for transport, landfill space, and CO2 emissions. At the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets I go to, very few people bring reusable bags; the overwhelming majority sadly choose paper as they see it as more convenient. This bill, as currently written, is a lost cause if paper is not included.

  7. We just found out about this post from Richard Risemberg at urban-ecology@yahoogroups.com (we’re big fans of it)—we’ve been fighting this issue hard for the past five years. And we’re jumping on this post to help raise awareness.

    These are a handful of things we’ll do right away:

    – Add this post in our Newsroom at ReusableBags.com (more than 250,000 unique visitors a month)

    – Point people towards the action alert to support California’s Plastic Bag and Litter Reduction Act (AB 2058).

    The American Chemistry Council is using scare tactics and twisted facts and the data on the issue of plastic bags because they don’t have a leg to stand on. They’re feigning concern about rapid deforestation, should consumers kick the plastic-bag addiction and replace it with paper bags, totally (and conveniently) ignoring the very viable solution of reusable bags.

    YES, WE’LL HAVE TO FIGHT to get the real facts out there: Taxpayers DO shoulder the costs of plastic bags in countless ways. Recycling of plastic bags is a paltry 5%, at best. And paper is no better an alternative. It’s time to wake up and focus on long-term solutions, not spin. Click href=”http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php”>here to learn more about the plastic bag issue.

    -Dana, reusablebags.com

  8. Very very true. The rise of our throwaway culture has been driven by passing external costs from the manufacturer to the taxpayers. Current governmental approaches try (and fail) to take care of problems on the back end. I think of this as a sort of “consume and pollute as much as you want, we’ll clean it up and landfill it all up later” – a costly and never-ending one-way treadmill.

    Solving these issues requires a shift to the most fundamental solution: source reduction, which this bill will do. This bill gets at the problem from both ends – tax the consumption behavior we want to discourage and fund the efforts to undo the damage caused.

    I just sent my action alert! Thanks!

  9. Doing a whois search for the domain yields the following contact information:

    Administrative Contact , Technical Contact :
    American Chemistry Council
    sam_mcmakin@americanchemistry.com
    1300 Wilson Boulevard
    Arlington, VA 22209-2307
    US
    Phone: (703) 741-5538
    Fax: 703 741-6538

    I think our friend Sam there could use a few emails, no?

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