The plastics industry, in opposition to bag bans, has commonly argued that ordinances which charge for paper bags and allow the revenues to stay with retailers are being supported by "greedy grocers." But while these ordinances do appear to be gaining traction and support from the grocers, the approval seems to be based on experience and common sense, not greed.
In this article in Petaluma, where the Sonoma County Waste Management Authority is trying to get all County jurisdictions on board for a regional ordinance, the grocers agree that a minimum price requirement is necessary for behavioral change.
"Unless you put a fee on paper bags, customers won't change their behavior," said Susan Houghton, a spokeswoman for Safeway stores. "Based on experience in other markets in Maui, Kauai and San Francisco, where they have plastic-bag bans in place, you have to put a fee on paper bags. It gives more of a disincentive to use paper and switch to reusable bags."
Furthermore, the minimum price requirement on paper bags merely help the grocers offset their distribution costs. At upwards of 15 cents each, a single-use paper bag often costs nearly twice as much as a single-use plastic bag. Houghton continued,
"We had 15 stores in San Francisco that began offering paper bags and their costs increased by $1 million annually above and beyond what we normally had. That's why instead of focusing on just switching from plastic to paper, we need to be focusing on a fee on paper bags. In Washington D.C., the plastic bag ban and a small fee on paper bags has worked very well."
Current state law, AB 2449, does not allow Californian retailers to place a fee on plastic bags. Since LA County passed an ordinance in November 2010 banning plastic bags and putting a 10 cent minimum price requirement on paper bags, other jurisdictions have followed suit with similar ordinances. Visit our website for a list of local governments that have passed bag bans, and links to their ordinance language.