California was the first state to impose an all-out ban on single-use plastic bags in the U.S., but the initiative is not a California invention. All over the world, a referendum on the plastic bag is becoming more and more popular. Scotland’s plastic bag ban prevented 650 million bags from entering the waste stream in its first year. In Ireland, a high tax on bags caused a 90 percent reduction in their use.
And while the implementation of the Golden State’s ban is in flux (an injunction forced a re-vote, which places it on the ballot in Nov. 2016), Hawaii went ahead and became the first state to actually start an all-out ban.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), a congressman from Long Beach, has just introduced the Trash Reduction Act of 2015, which would take steps to dramatically reduce plastic pollution nationwide.
Lowenthal’s bill would place a minimum 10-cent fee on each bag provided by retailers to carry out groceries and other purchased items; permit retailers to retain 4 cents per bag if they have a qualifying recycling program; allow limited reusable bag giveaways for promotional reasons; and, transfer funds raised by the fee to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support projects that protect and conserve the environment.
Americans use approximately 100 billion plastic bags each year. The vast majority of these wind up in landfills or as loose trash on land and water.
“Americans for the most part all agree that a clean environment is better for us as individuals and better not just for our children, but for all future generations. Being sustainable today is an investment in a cleaner and healthier tomorrow,” Lowenthal said in a statement.
Studies have consistently shown that the best solution to excessive plastic bag trash is to place a nominal fee on single-use carryout bags. Local governments in both the United States and around the world have enacted per-bag charges which have resulted in dramatic (60-90 percent) reductions in the number of bags used.
The congressman’s bill would keep thousands of tons of plastic pollution out of our water, land, and landfills each year. To date, 210 municipalities in the United States, spanning 17 states plus the District of Columbia, have adopted carryout bag ordinances.
“Plastic pollution is one of the most visible environmental impacts of our consumer age. All Americans can reap the same benefits that California has: less plastic pollution and a higher quality of life.”
Co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Sam Farr (CA-20), Mike Honda (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Ted Lieu (CA-33).