Plastic Bags Banned in San Jose
With certain guidelines and stipulations, San Jose is now the biggest city in America to ban plastic carry-out bags.
The goal is to get consumers to make the switch to reusable totes.
As with all forms of behavior enforced by legislation, some are delighted and feel that every city in the U.S. should follow suit, while others bemoan the loss of personal choice.
The legislation prohibits retailers from giving out disposable plastic bags at the check stand and requires them to charge for paper bags.
San Jose is actually not the first city to ban plastic bags; San Francisco retains that title when it enacted a ban on plastic bags in 2007. San Jose's ordinance, however, blazes a new trail in that it goes further than other bans on plastic bags.
The San Jose ordinance covers most retailers, not just groceries and pharmacies, and discourages disposable paper bags by requiring merchants to charge customers for them.
Disposable plastic bags become both an environmental as well as visual pollution. It is estimated that the Bay Area uses 3.8 billion plastic bags a year and about 1 million end up in San Francisco Bay, where they harm birds, fish and other animals.
Critics such as the American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic-bag makers, say their product is being unfairly maligned, noting it can be recycled and turned into items such as shopping carts and composite lumber. They say government officials should promote recycling bags rather than banning them.
The problem with the insistence that plastic bags are better recycled than banned is that recycling hasn't worked, seeing that only about 5 percent of plastic bags get recycled in California.
Where lies the strongest resistance to banning plastic bags? Industry lobbying. It thwarts efforts to ban plastic bags statewide. A state Assembly bill to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags from grocery and drugstores died this year for lack of support in the Senate, despite backing from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But, despite lobbying efforts to keep plastic bags in production, circulation, and pollution, local bans continue to flourish where eco-consciousness is the strongest.Continued on the next page