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Plastic Bag War

​Plastic bag war may come to Sacramento

Allen Young

Plastic bag manufacturers are looking to repeal California’s plastic bag ban via referendum. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is taking the matter in his own hands by saying he would seek a citywide ban on single-use plastic bags if the manufacturers are successful in signature gathering.
Plastic bag manufacturers are optimistic they will gather more than half a million signatures needed to qualify a measure on the 2016 statewide ballot to repeal California’s new prohibition on plastic bags, a representative said Monday.

The declaration followed an announcement by Mayor Kevin Johnson that he would seek a citywide ban on single-use plastic bags if the manufacturers were successful in signature gathering. If that opposition submits 504,760 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by Dec. 30, the bag ban law would be placed on hold until the Nov. 2016 election. Johnson has become “another mayor that is not allowing voters to weigh in on this issue,” said Mark Daniels of Hilex Poly, a South Carolina-based manufacturer that is funding the bag referendum.
San Francisco, Los Angeles and 129 other jurisdictions in California already have passed bag bans. In nearly every case the City Council, not voters, have adopted the measure, said Daniels.

“Is it any wonder why companies continue to flee California?” asked Daniels, a vice president at Hilex Poly and chairman of the American Progressive Bag Association, a manufacturers trade group. Policymakers should “respect the vote of people who believe that manufacturing jobs should remain in California,” he said. He added that plastic bag manufacturing supports about 2,000 jobs in California that would be lost under the bag ban.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown approved the nation’s first prohibition on single-use plastic bags. The ban applies to grocery stores and pharmacies in July 2015 and to convenience and liquor stores one year later. In a signing statement, the governor wrote that the law would reduce “the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself.” In promoting a citywide ban, the mayor said in a statement Monday that plastic bags cost Sacramento hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in environmental cleanup.

“These single-use plastic bags didn’t exist 40 years ago, and we want to make sure they don’t exist in Sacramento in the near future,” Johnson said.
Fifty nine percent of California voters said they would uphold the plastic bag ban if it were put to a vote, while just 34 percent they would want to overturn the law, according to a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll released in November.

Daniels said bag manufacturers expect to collect about 800,000 signatures in support of overturning the law — an action he characterized as a better indicator of public opinion on the matter, he said. Hilex Poly has spent a little over $2 million on the effort, he said.

Allen Young covers state legislation, regulation and contracts, as well as economic news, international trade and economic development for the Sacramento Business Journal.