business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Sacramento Bee reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown has "signed legislation phasing out the single-use plastic bags that grocery stores and other retailers use to package products at the checkout line. Brown’s assent hands a sweeping victory to environmentalists and vindicates the scores of cities and counties that have already banned bags … Minutes after Brown announced signing the bill, an industry group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance vowed to begin collecting signatures in an effort to overturn the law via a referendum on the 2016 ballot."

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

In its press release, the Bag Alliance said, “Our research confirms that the vast majority of California voters are opposed to legislation that bans recyclable plastic bags and allows grocers to charge and keep fees on other bags." It denounced the law as “a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit – all under the guise of environmentalism.”

Also in a prepared statement, Ron Fong, president/CEO of the California Grocers Association (CGA), said that the organization "has worked diligently on this issue for several years, seeking to obtain a uniform standard that will level the playing field. Consistency helps alleviate supply chain logistics and employee training issues while at the same time eliminate customer confusion. The minimum charge applied to recyclable paper and reusable bags has been shown to be effective in encouraging consumers to make the shift to reusable bags, and in fact experience across localities shows that in the end most consumers quickly adjust and avoid the charge altogether.”

According to the Bee, the legislation "authorizes local governments to impose fines of up to $5,000 on businesses that don’t ditch their single-use bags or fail to charge for substitutes. But in San Francisco, where California’s first bag ban has been extended to cover businesses large and small, a spokesman said the city has not leveled a single fine."
KC's View:
In other words, they changed behavior. It takes time, but it seems to me that the point is to do that, not gauge the public.

Ultimately, I would prefer that changes in behavior happen at the grass roots, rather than through legislation. But sometimes, I think, a culture does have to bite the bullet and force things along.
By the way … let's not kid ourselves about the American Progressive Bag Alliance. What it is an alliance of is plastic bag manufacturers who are trying to protect their businesses. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but maybe it would be more accurately named the American Protectionist Bag Alliance.