Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – November 26, 2016 – I can assume many people have now had the opportunity to go to Walmart or Safeway, load up your basket with products, then on arriving at the check out counter notice that the rack containing the infamous “one use plastic grocery bag” was missing from the end of said check out counter. A cheerful clerk informs you that unless you have brought your own shopping bags, you now have the infinite pleasure of purchasing a “recyclable paper bag” for at least ten cents or a more expensive reusable bag for a dollar or more. So much for freedom of choice and personal responsibility.
It seems that the passage of Proposition 67 which legitimized an earlier State legislative action, Senate Bill 270, had corporate Safeway and Walmart rushing into action “to get consumers use to” the new law in California regarding the ban of single use plastic grocery bags. Keep in mind just which stores with almost unseemly haste were first to institute the ban, as their part in this con will be revealed later in this story of “pay for play”.
I have delayed writing this piece in order to see just how badly the local paper would mangle their story in an effort to remain news worthy. In a story by Tony Reed, “Plastic bag ban is now in effect”, Triplicate November 19, 2016, he clearly is clueless beyond the well known superficial details of this con job. He attempts to pad the rather pointless story by interviewing Safeway’s store manager, Brian Ridgely and a follow-up starring (Council member) Blake Inscore, neither of which adds much more to the story other than platitudes. Mr Reed does not delve into the ins and outs of either Proposition 67 or SB 270, because that is clearly “too much trouble ” for him. So much for either the Triplicate or Blake Inscore being in touch with what really happened when California’s voters approved Proposition 67.
A bit of history first, is in order. When the forefathers of this country constructed the Constitution, one of the chief concerns was the protection of minorities, something Democracy as a form of government fails to do in a rather spectacular fashion. The Electoral College is just one of the many constructs that were put into place specifically to protect minorities.
In the State of California, a system of Propositions has been employed at nearly all recent elections as a means of giving the electorate a purely democratic method for passage of certain measures, some spending, while others legislate certain behavior. A very bad idea! This process, unfortunately has become so complex and disingenuous that many things have become the law of the land in California, or paid for with bond measures that do not benefit many of California’s minorities and instead have become major burdens. This is precisely why the founders had such an overwhelming fear of pure Democracy and the inevitable abuses that can stem from its practice.
Getting back to the “single use plastic grocery bag”. For nearly forty years it has been a constant in providing an inexpensive way to transport products home from many stores and has been transformed into much more than it’s single use job description. But, because it was plastic and therefore, not biodegradable, it and an infinite array of plastic products began to attract the ire of environmentalists. For a time in the 1990’s there was a push by environmentalist first, to try to recycle plastic, then to ban it altogether. This effort was doomed to failure as plastic is a very difficult material to replace economically, and an even more difficult material to recycle due to the large numbers of incompatible formulations of plastic.
In California, environmentalists were able to shame enough residents in urban areas over the use of plastic grocery bags to begin initiating bag bans for many cities in an effort to gain legitimacy for a State wide ban. In the interval before the State came up with SB 270 in 2014, large corporate grocery and pharmaceutical chains recognized that there was a way to fatten their respective bottom lines by eliminating the cost for single use bags and begin to market the bags we now are forced to use. By doing so they saved 2.5 cents for each “free” plastic grocery bag they no longer had to provide and were able to sell “recyclable paper bags” for a minimum of ten cents (with no upper limit) or sell more expensive multi use bags with no suggested price limit. Nice racket for something that only costs the store three cents for the paper bag and about 21 cents for the multi use bag. It is projected that corporate grocery and pharmaceutical chains will rake in an estimated $300,000,000.00, Yes a lot of zeros, per year in this con. It is currently unknown just how much money was contributed to various political campaigns to get SB 270 on the books. It is also unknown just how much money was spent by these same “usual suspects” to pass Proposition 67 and defeat Proposition 65.
Oh, those of you who voted “Yes” on Proposition 67 who also thought you were voting to save the environment from the “dreaded plastic bag contamination of California”, or the idea that the paper bag replacements would be in any way recyclable, well, good luck with that one. Maybe you should have actually read the words defining Proposition 67. Proposition 67 only talks about one, yes, one kind of plastic bag currently in use in California. There are only thousands of other types of plastic bags in use in this State. The idea that the banning of one particular version of the plastic bag will in any way change their effect on the environment defies common sense. A simple reading of Proposition 67 and the recognition of who supported it should have been a wake up call. The banning of “single use plastic grocery bags” was purely for the purpose of enriching large corporate grocery and pharmaceutical chains in California. It was never about recycling or the environment. As a result we now have a new rather awkward method of transporting goods home that is both expensive by any reckoning, and will effect the less well off people in this County the most because of that new cost, It will also send more money across the border where single use bags still are used. Thanks to all locals who voted “Yes” on Proposition 67, its another REAL winner for rural residents.