Her Voice: Bag ban is no way to protect the environment
by Gloria Allen / For the Tracy Press
Jul 23, 2010 | 3209 views | 7 7 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There are a lot of opinions when it comes to Assembly Bill 1998, a piece of legislation that aims to ban bags at grocery stores. In fact, I’ve heard many irresponsible, heavy-handed comments about plastic bags and litter. Factually challenged arguments are clouding the real issue at hand — why are lawmakers worrying about grocery bags right now?

AB 1998 is simply a hidden tax that we’ll all have to pay at the grocery store when we run in to pick up dinner.

I worked in the grocery industry for more than 20 years. While I care about the environment, I don’t see how taxing and banning shopping bags is the answer.

At a time when California is in a budget crisis, I’m dismayed that our state lawmakers are considering funding a “bag police.” Bag police don’t keep our streets safe.

William Jespersen wrote earlier this month about the 14 law enforcement jobs lost at the San Joaquin County district attorney’s offices. Stockton has experienced a massive increase in the number of homicides over the past year alone. This is unacceptable.

The state budget crisis has hurt all of us. Public safety jobs are being cut, school budgets slashed, essential services chopped — with no end in sight. There are real problems affecting residents across the state. But instead, lawmakers are wasting time and money on legislation that would tell us how to bag our own groceries — and cut more than 500 jobs in the process.

There are now more than 15,000 recycling bins at stores across our nation. More than 832 million pounds of bags and wraps were recycled in 2008, a 28 percent increase since 2005.

We all want to protect our environment, but this bill threatens to dismantle California’s growing and thriving recycling program and does not spend one penny to combat litter.

Today, thanks to legislation passed in 2007, recycling bins currently found in stores collect more than just plastic grocery bags. They accept plastic dry cleaning bags, plastic bags used to deliver the newspaper, plastic wraps from bread, paper towels, cases of soda and other products. California recyclers and other companies then turn these products into long-lasting decking products, city park benches and recycled plastic bags and wraps. That sounds like an environmentally friendly solution to me.

No matter which way you cut it, the only winner here is the grocery industry. It will collect more money from shoppers during one of the greatest recessions in recent memory. Reducing grocer’s overhead and generating funds to their bottom line makes for their good financials at the shopper’s expense.

We can all solve the “paper vs. plastic” question by just taking the time to recycle our bags. We don’t need a new law or a new state bureaucracy to do what is right. Now, maybe our elected officials can get on with solving the major issues facing our state.

• Editor’s note: Assembly Bill 1998 would ban plastic bags in certain grocery stores and would require a 5 cent charge for take-out paper bags. • Gloria Allen is a member of the Stockton chapter of the NAACP, a Stockton Unified School District trustee and secretary and treasurer of the California Coalition of Black School Board Members. She’s lived in the community for more than 30 years, a retired Safeway employee of 20 years and currently works part-time at Sara Lee. She is married with two children and four grandchildren.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 11, 2010
Plastic bag ban will have a tremendous positive environmental impact long-term, as well as immediate results, which will be evident not just in the ocean but around parks and streets of our neighborhoods. The price we pay for the loss of wildlife and the irreversible damages to our ecosystem is unjustifiable, not to mention the costs of collection, recycling and disposal of plastic bags. As for employment, it is completely untrue that the ban will eliminate jobs in California. Statistical data shows there will be an increase in jobs created by companies producing reusable bags.
August 10, 2010
Change is rarely voluntary and being hit in the wallet is a surefire way to get us to change habits. Hefty fines have changed our attitudes about seat belts, helmets, running stop signs, and (pending) cell phones.

I would like to know where the 5 cent surcharge per bag will go. If it goes to local schools/charities, then I'm all for it.
July 26, 2010
Cosco has it going on.

Free samples and we just use the cardboard boxes.

When you get home toss the cardboard box in the trash.

Saves the plastic bags every time.

July 23, 2010
What is Gloria’s real concern?

These two statements are made in her article:

1) “We don’t need a new law or a new state bureaucracy to do what is right.”

2) “Bag police don’t keep our streets safe.”

First, it seems Gloria is doing what is right in spite of laws? Second, it seems as if Gloria believes others are following her example. Now, if we use this reasoning, Gloria seems to be suggesting we don’t need street police because we all know what is right, in spite of her proclamation to the contrary in her article.

I use canvas bags every time I purchase items, not because of some environmental concern propagandized by a political entity, but because it makes sense in my worldview.

Yes, Gloria. All children under the age of 18 wear helmets while riding a bike because it is the right thing to do—and their parents instruct them to do so, right? Well, based on my observations around town, I would estimate fewer than ten percent of children under 18 wear helmets while riding a bike.

Give us something concrete, Gloria.

I would rather have a law that is poorly enforced than none at all.

July 23, 2010
There could be jobs to be had if there are jobs in making cloth/canvas/denim bags rather than recycling!

More sanitary for the people, environment and the workers? No?

I have been using my canvas bags for shopping for 7 years now, and had wondered how many plastic bags I kept from going to the landfill, highways, littering the landscapes, harming wildlife, birds (dead seagulls were found to have bottle caps in their stomaches) since they do converge on landfills.

Do a little more, work with the lawmakers, in opening shop for canvas bag making??

Plus, the cloth bags are more washable, much more sanitary!!!

Perhaps cotton farmers may see need to reopen their cotton growing farms? Jobs in processing cotton?

July 23, 2010
This lady is a whack job if she thinks that just taking the time to recycle will solve the growing problem of plastic pollution. California uses 19 BILLION plastic bags every year! Instead of using our time and money on recycling these flimsy, pointless, and damaging products in our environment, lets just get rid of them. Other countries have done so and have been fine. What was before plastic bags? What was before styrofoam? If you want to continue being lazy then support the plastic bag you use for 5 minutes and ends up in our environment for 500 or more years! We should ban plastic bags, and move on.
July 23, 2010
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