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Prop 67: Ban on Plastic Bags

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Sheppard Mullin

Sponsored by Sheppard Mullin, a full service, global law firm with 750 attorneys.  The firm handles corporate and technology matters, high stakes litigation and complex financial transactions.  Visit www.sheppardmullin.com

Updated at 2:30 PM on Nov. 9, 2016


Prop 67 has passed by a margin of 52.0% yes to 48.0% no. It means a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags can take effect.

What would Prop 67 do?

  • Prop 67 would stop grocery stores and drug stores in California from using plastic grocery bags by banning them state-wide. (These are the one-use plastic bags. Not the more sturdy reusable ones.)
  • Stores could charge 10-cents (or more) for reusable bags. But low-income people on food stamps would get them at no charge
  • Liquor stores and convenience stores would have to follow suit in a year.
  • It would also provide $2 million in state loans available to plastic bag companies in California to help retrain their workers in the transition to multi-use bags.  

The quick backstory:

This prop came about because a law outlawing plastic bags was passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Brown. This was back in 2014. It would’ve gone into effect but plastic companies immediately launched a challenge. That’s what Prop 67 is. It says the ban would be repealed and plastic bags would continue being offered for free at grocery stores.  

What do the supporters of the bag ban say?

  • Supporters of Prop 67 say plastic bags are really bad for the environment, especially ocean life. They say sea animals get entangled in them and die. Turtles think bags are jellyfish, so they eat them then starve to death because their stomachs are clogged with the bag.
  • Plastic bags are a major source of litter. They are an eyesore along freeways, streets, parks, against fences and in trees.
  • Plastic bags also create problems in recycling centers.
  • Bags may be recyclable but only 5% of plastic bags are actually recycled.
  • A state-wide ban is needed because even though more than a hundred cities have banned them, 2/3’s of Californians still live where single-use bags are provided.

What do the opponents of the bag ban say?

  • They say plastics bags are a small part of our pollution problem. They are less than half of 1% of all litter.
  • They say Prop 67 is the result of greedy special interests disguised as environmentalists.
  • It’s a cash grab by the big grocery store chains that could make billions from bag fees.
  • Charging 10-cents or more for a reusable bag hurts the poor and creates two classes of customers: those who can afford it and those who can’t.
  • Bags are not always single-use. People use them again to line their garbage pails, for pet waste or wet clothes. Without them still more bags would have to be manufactured and purchased.
  • Plastic bags are recyclable.
  • Prop 67 would jeopardize thousands of bag manufacturing jobs in California.
  • The $2 million in state loan funds is a pittance and would do nothing to help workers.
  • A ban on plastic bags opens the door for the government to ban other products like Styrofoam cups, straws, napkins, or plastic water bottles.

Who’s supporting Prop 67 and how much money have they raised?

Supporters of the bag ban are some environmental groups including the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Project and Heal the Bay. Also in favor of Prop 67 are grocery stores, their unions, a lot of cities and Governor Brown.  More support comes from companies that make the reusable bags that would replace the plastic ones.

As of mid-August supporters have raised $1.3 million. Opponents point out most of this money comes from out-of-state companies.

Who’s opposing Prop 67 and how much money have they raised?

Opposition is mainly coming from two big plastic companies outside of California– specifically Novolex from South Carolina and Formosa Plastics from New Jersey.

They have raised $6.7 million to repeal the ban.

What about all the cities that have already passed their own bag ban?

About 120 cities or counties have already banned plastic bags. Among them are Los Angeles, Glendale, Long Beach, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Francisco and San Diego.

If a city or county has already passed a ban on plastic bags, that law will stay in place and will not be affected by Prop 67.  

If and when a statewide ban goes into effect, any ordinance passed by a city or county after that would be superseded by the state law.

What does a “yes” vote mean?

A “yes” vote means a state-wide ban on plastic bags will take effect.

What does a “no vote mean?

A “no” vote means grocery stores can continue to provide free plastic bags unless local laws prohibit it.  

Click here for a cheat sheet on all of the California proposition. 

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