When Does Environmentalism Mean Replacing One Plastic Bag with Another?

A special guest editorial from John Quintanilla, Member, Board of Trusteee at Rosemead School District 

If the environmental goal is to ban the use of plastic bags, why are so many environmental groups supporting a piece of legislation in California that would replace current plastic bags with a much larger, thicker plastic bags?  

According to supporters of the bag ban, plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose, and when they do break down they release poisons into waterways and threaten wildlife.  More than a hundred, primarily coastal, California communities have banned plastic bags; many more may follow.  Yet Senate Bill 270 – pushed by three State Senators: Kevin de Leon, Alex Padilla, and Ricardo Lara, and sponsored by Californians Against Waste – would undo the actions passed by local communities.  

Under this new proposed legislation, plastic bags would supposedly be banned state-wide. But a careful reading of the bill reveals a major contradiction – it would still allow for the use of  a new, much larger and thicker plastic bag that are currently produced by two California companies, including one in Senator de Leon’s district. 

To make matters worse these new plastic bags can’t be recycled in the curbside recycling bins.  They will just pile up in landfills and waterways.  

This legislation would essentially overturn the local plastic bag bans throughout California and create the very same environmental problems so many groups have sought to fight against. 

SB 270 would also impose a 10-cent minimum tax on each paper bag. Rather than use those proceeds to fight global warming or clean our waterways or sponsor beach clean ups, or provide for some after-schoool programs, all the money from the tax will go to into the wallets of the corporate CEOs of grocery and supermarket companies. 

Many of my students come from homes where having to pay for something as basic as a shopping bag is an economic burden. A 10-cent tax per paper bag might not seem like a lot to some, but every dime counts for many of these families.  

SB 270 is a disingenuous attempt to protect the environment. At its core, the proposal is nothing more than a superficial feel-good bill that hurts our communities and the environment. This type of deception does not deserve to see the light of day.


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