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Industry Responds to California Plastic Bag Tax

WASHINGTON, DC, USA—The formation of a national Plastic Bag Coalition is underway to fight California legislation that would place a tax on all plastic bags used by retailers in the state, says The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. (SPI). According to SPI, the coalition is being led by the Film and Bag Federation (which is a business unit of SPI) and the California Film Extruders and Converters Association (CFECA). "All allied trade associations will be working together on this issue," states SPI.

Promoted by the environmental group Californians Against Waste (CAW), the legislation, AB 586, would require California retailers to pay a two-cent tax on every disposable plastic bag they use. Examples of bags covered by the tax include grocery sacks; dry cleaner, take-out food, retail, membership or wholesaler bags, and service station bags. Retailers would be exempt from paying the tax if the bag is made of at least 40 percent recycled content, can be reused at least 1,000 times, or is used to contain a product with no other packaging, says SPI. The bill also levies a two-cent tax on all disposable plastic, paper, or poly-coated paper cups.

SPI says the money generated under the proposed "California Litter and Marine Debris Reduction and Recycling Act" would go toward reducing, cleaning up, and recycling disposable bags and cup litter and marine debris. Cities and counties would be eligible for block grants to fund litter programs; CAW estimates the tax could raise $100 million per year, adds SPI.

The plastics industry opposes the bill "because the onerous tax" would place an additional and unwarranted burden on an important California industry already staggering under high utility rates and other costs of doing business in the state," SPI explains. "The trade association alliance plans to launch a strenuous advocacy and grassroots effort in opposition to the tax," which, SPI says, due to California's severe budget shortfall, could be given serious consideration by the state legislature.

"SPI is working with Laurie Hansen, a lobbyist with extensive knowledge of the plastics industry, in the effort," adds SPI. "Customer groups, such as the California Grocers Association, Retailers Association, Drycleaners Association, and Restaurant Association, also are being recruited to participate. Hansen has been working , since last September, with CFECA on film and bag issues in California."

For more information, visit the Film and Bag Federation at plasticbag.com.

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