Last fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that would ban the use of disposable plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores statewide. Senate Bill 270 was set to take effect on July 2015.
But an industry-backed organization called the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents plastic bag manufacturers and business groups, recently announced that it had collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the ban in November 2016. If the referendum qualifies, the ban would be suspended until a vote on the measure takes place.
The Alliance had a 90-day window to collect the 504,760 signatures needed to qualify for the referendum, and managed to secure more than 800,000. According to the Sacramento Bee, "Some of those signatures could be invalid [...] and now counties must conduct random samples to determine if enough of them are legitimate."
If the necessary signatures are deemed valid, the referendum will go on the 2016 ballot, effectively earning the plastic bag industry a two-year reprieve regardless of how Californians decide to vote.
To date, plastics companies have contributed more than $1.2 million toward the referendum campaign, and all but $50,000 came from companies outside of California, showing the national ramifications of such a law.
In a statement, the Alliance said SB 270 was never about the environment and was actually about the money, as it allowed grocery stores to sell their own bags for 10 cents or more:
It was a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees without providing any public benefit. We are pleased to have reached this important milestone in the effort to repeal a terrible piece of job-killing legislation, and look forward to giving California voters a chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box in 2016.
On the other hand, grocery stores say the 10-cent fee levied on each bag will not generate any profit, and instead will only cover the expense of providing costlier paper and reusable bags.