The Sacramento Bee reports that the Sacramento City Council has unanimously approved a ban on single-use plastic bags that will begin January 1, 2016.
"We applaud Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council for standing up to out-of-state plastics companies and passing a ban that makes sense for our environment, wildlife, and taxpayers," said Californians Against Waste Executive Director Mark Murray. "This is a huge boost in momentum for the effort to protect California's statewide plastic bag ban that will be on the November 2016 ballot."
After working for months with city staff to answer background questions for councilmembers, CAW policy analyst Sue Vang provided public testimony regarding the costs of plastic bags to the environment and to local governments trying to clean them up. Other CAW staff and interns helped Sacramento City residents make their voices heard in front of the Council. Environmental advocacy organizations that also provided public comment included Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter and the Environmental Council of Sacramento. Also showing their support were scores of students from colleges and high schools around the region.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson pledged to support a local ban if California's statewide ban was delayed due to a plastic bag industry referendum. The Sacramento ban is the first local ban to be enacted after the plastic bag industry spent $3.2 million to put a referendum on the ban on the ballot in November 2016; 98 percent of the funds for the industry effort came from outside the state, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
Sacramento is expected to save more than 10 million plastic bags from going to its landfill every month thanks to the new law. The bags gum up recycling equipment and are responsible for widespread litter in the city, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year, notes Murray.
In addition, data collected by the City of San Jose shows that a similar ordinance reduced the number of plastic bags in storm drains by 89 percent and the number of plastic bags in streets and creeks by 60 percent. Similar results could significantly reduce the threat of flooding in Sacramento.
City staff cited statistics from the California Coastal Commission that nearly 80 percent of all marine debris is plastic, and from Ocean Conservancy that eating plastic kills nearly 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other marine mammals each year worldwide.
Sacramento will join Davis, San Francisco, Napa, and other area cities with bans. Another major city, San Diego, also announced it is moving forward with a bag ban; Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Democratic City Council President Sheri Lightner announced last month they would push for a law like Sacramento’s new regulation.
Notwithstanding Sacramento’s action, more than 15 billion plastic bags are expected to enter California landfills between now and November 2016 because of the industry-financed referendum on the state law.