Myth v. Fact
Plastic bag alternatives are less environmentally friendly
Bans have been proven to significantly reduce waste and energy
Californians use almost 13.8 billion bags each year. Despite major recycling efforts, less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled statewide. Plastic is non-biodegradable and plastic bags are made from polyethylene, derived from natural gas that has been extracted along with petroleum. The annual US production of plastic shopping bags uses the equivalent of 1.2 million barrels of oil.
A life cycle assessment conducted by California State University (CSU) Chico, found that reusable bags made from recycled polyethylene use 50% less energy, have 40% less impact on greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste resources, and use 30% less water.
Plastic bag bans do not decrease litter
Bans already have reduced litter
San Jose has reported reduced bag litter in storm drains, creeks and rivers, and in City streets and neighborhoods. The Worldwatch Institute found that the world produces 4-5 trillion plastic bags each year and most end up as litter. Its report states that 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags were produced in one year, 80 percent of which were "used in North American and Western Europe." The report further explained that Americans throw away 100 billion bags each year and that the bags are the "major source of human-related debris on the seabed."
Plastic bags are reused often
Large numbers of plastic bags aren't easily reused or recycled
The average family brings home 1,500 Bags a year, and it's unlikely they're all reused. Only 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled, according to the Associated Press.
The three most common reuses of plastic bags result in a scenario where the bags are only used once more and still end up as waste and litter, whereas a reusable bag as defined by SB 270 will be certified to last 125 uses.
Plastic should be recycled instead of banned
Very few plastic bags are recycled, and bags jam recycling plants
In addition to the paltry number of bags actually recycled, plastic bags cause costly stoppages at recycling plants. The City of San Jose has estimated an annual loss of $1 million each year due to plastic bag related repairs in their recycling facilities. In early 2013, it was reported that at least one recycling facility in Sacramento shut down six times a day to remove bags from their machines.
Ban will cause foodborne illness
Washing bags can prevent contamination
The Federal Food Safety blog from the Department of Health and Human Services recommends washing reusable bags, which according to an International Association for Food Protection article eliminates over 99.9 percent of the bacteria found in the reusable bags. The San Francisco Department of Health said such claims have “not been tested, much less demonstrated,” and added that “It would be a disservice to San Francisco residents and visitors to alarm them by claiming that it has been.”
Ban will harm the economy
Plastic bag bans spur innovation and job-creating
A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags will protect businesses from patchwork compliance standards by setting a uniform statewide guideline and spur market growth for innovative alternatives.
A report on the effects of Los Angeles County's plastic bag ban from its Department of Public Works noted that since the county implemented its ban, "local reusable bag companies have started to emerge to take advantage of this growing market." Other companies throughout the state are expanding or adding reusable bag manufacturing and creating jobs. San Francisco's Office of Economic Analysis predicted that plastic bag bans would result in a "slight positive impact on the local economy."