It sounds like the plastic bag industry may be up to its old tricks again—this time in San Luis Obispo County. But scare tactics about the dangers of reusable bags have not stopped the passage of bag bans in the past, and we hope these ridiculous and unfounded arguments remain unsuccessful.
Last November the San Luis Obispo County's Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) Board narrowly approved, by a 7-5 vote, a single-use bag ordinance. Tomorrow, the Board will have a final vote of the bag ordinance—and the vote could be close again.
The industry has been working hard against this ordinance, calling area residents, warning them about the potential impacts of reusable bags, and asking them to write to specific members of the IWMA Board.
Take a stand against plastic industry bullying and scare tactics! You can attend the meeting tomorrow at 2pm and show your support publicly (agenda and location available here). You can also take action and write to the IWMA Board of Directors—it only takes a few minutes and you can personalize your message!
We first saw this scare tactic circulate more than a year ago when a different group purchased ads in several large newspapers, and we were quick to point out that there was no evidence that deadly bacterial strains were found in reusable bags. Cross-contamination of food products can just as easily be caused by a kitchen countertop or shopping cart.
Now a new group, calling itself the Environmental Safety Alliance, is working against the San Luis Obispo ordinance. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, residents received calls and emails this weekend from the mysterious group, asking them to oppose the ordinance. The Tribune was unable to determine exactly who funds the group, and the newspaper’s calls and emails using the website contact information remain unanswered.
But reporters were able to track down two people who had made some of the calls. One caller, Dr. Andre Feliz, cited concerns with food-borne illnesses caused by cloth bag use, and vaguely described the funders as "a coalition of retail interests, stores and some farming interests." When asked, Feliz, who has a background in pathology, said he would support a plastic bag ban provided that it included an education component on proper reusable bag care.
The other person contacted by the Tribune, who identified himself as "Dr. Robert Johnson" while making calls on behalf of the Environmental Safety Alliance, turns out to have a PhD in music.
When the University of Arizona study on reusable bags was first circulated in 2010, its researchers noted that awareness was the simple and easy solution to resolve these minor problems associated with dirty reusable bags. And the Alliance website, despite the time and money spent by the group to oppose reusable bags this weekend, seems to agree at least on this point:
"If using reusable bags, it is of clear importance to clean and maintain your bag after each shopping trip. The strange thing is that people wouldn’t think of using a dirty cutting board over and over again without cleaning and disinfecting the surface, yet few make the logical step to clean and disinfect the bag that holds your food home from the market."
Learn more about our Campaign to End Single-Use Plastic Bags on our website.