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THE CONSEQUENCE OF REPLACING PLASTIC BAGS WITH PAPER BAGS FOR RESTAURANT CARRYOUT
We have received this photograph of a paper bag that burst when hot soup spilled inside it. (The bottom of the bag is facing the camera.) The bag was provided by a deli in San Francisco on January 2, 2013. The bottom of the bag absorbed the soup and broke apart.
We have verified that this was a genuine incident.
Imagine if the hot soup would have spilled on a child. Hot soup is a leading cause of serious burns.
This would not have happened with a plastic bag.
San Francisco has banned plastic carryout bags at restaurants, effective July 2013. We have filed a lawsuit to invalidate the ban.
CITIES AND COUNTIES MAY NOT BAN PLASTIC BAGS USED FOR RESTAURANT CARRYOUT
UNDER THE CALIFORNIA RETAIL FOOD CODE, CALIFORNIA CITIES AND COUNTIES ARE PROHIBITED FROM BANNING PLASTIC BAGS AT RESTAURANTS AND OTHER FOOD FACILITIES.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR LEGAL MEMORANDUM ON THE ISSUE. CLICK HERE FOR THE RULING IN OUR FAVOR BY THE SANTA BARBARA SUPERIOR COURT.
A customer using plastic bags at a restaurant in San Francisco.
THE MISINFORMATION PROBLEM
"There is a danger that the green herd, in pursuit of a good cause, stumbles into misguided campaigns….
Many of those who have demonized plastic bags have enlisted scientific study to their cause. By exaggerating a grain of truth into a larger falsehood, they spread misinformation and abuse the trust of their unwitting audiences."
David Laist, a senior policy analyst with the federal Marine Mammal Commission, has stated:
"In their eagerness to make their case [against plastic bags], some of the environmental groups make up claims that are not really supportable."
The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition is the only organization that is questioning and challenging the misinformation, myths, exaggerations, and invented statistics spread by anti-plastic bag activists. One of the ways that we try to get the truth out is by demanding that cities and counties prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) before deciding whether to ban plastic bags, so that they can make informed decisions. We believe that environmental policy should be based on facts, not falsehoods.
PLEASE READ THE MYTHS AND FACTS SECTION BELOW.
THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
WE ARE DELIGHTED WITH THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION IN OUR CASE AGAINST THE CITY OF MANHATTAN BEACH.
WE WON ON STANDING, OVERTURNING PRIOR CASE LAW.
THE COURT ALSO AGREED WITH US THAT CEQA ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW IS REQUIRED FOR PLASTIC BAG BANS IN CITIES OR COUNTIES LARGER THAN MANHATTAN BEACH AND WHEN A SERIES OF SMALL CITIES OR COUNTIES ADOPT BANS RESULTING IN CUMULATIVE IMPACTS.
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR PRESS RELEASE.
QUOTE FROM SUPREME COURT OPINION IN MANHATTAN BEACH CASE EXPLAINING WHY IT REJECTED THE ARGUMENT OF VARIOUS ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS THAT BUSINESS INTERESTS, INCLUDING THE SAVE THE PLASTIC BAG COALITION, SHOULD BE BARRED FROM BRINGING CEQA ACTIONS
"Corporate purposes are not necessarily antithetical to the public interest.... Corporations [may] have particular expertise and thus may have an enhanced understanding of the public interests at stake."
QUOTE ABOUT OUR ROLE FROM MENDOCINO COUNTY EIR
"The intervention of the plastic bag manufacturers has stimulated more thoughtful consideration of the environmental issues associated with single-use carryout bags. In particular, the limitations of earlier ordinances in San Francisco and Oakland have been understood. These ordinances (enacted in San Francisco in 2007, blocked by litigation in Oakland in 2008) merely banned plastic bags without regulating paper bags. The plastic bag manufacturers pointed out that paper bags may require more energy to manufacture and distribute, and, consequently, that the environmental impacts of single-use paper bags must also be considered when proposing a ban on single-use plastic bags."
SAN FRANCISCO'S EPIC FAILURE
San Francisco has banned plastic bags at all retail stores. Now the city is awash in paper bags.
Paper bags are much worse for the environment than plastic bags. Paper bags are made from trees -- millions of trees every year. The paper bag life cycle results in triple the greenhouse gas emissions of plastic bags.
Very few people take a reusable bag downtown for shopping. Even those few people who take a reusable bag to the grocery store do not use them for buying clothes or other items in Union Square or other shopping areas. We suggest spending an hour watching the flow of people leaving the Target store at the Metreon. Since the ban took effect on October 1, 2012, almost all of the customers are taking paper bags. See for yourself.
The city requires stores to charge 10 cents for each paper bag. How are stores convincing customers to pay 10 cents for a paper bag? Most stores are not telling customers about the charge! They just add it to the bill.
Some stores post prominent notices informing customers about the charge. Most don't.
Of course, visitors and tourists are not aware of the 10-cent fee. And even if they knew, they would not buy a reusable bag as they are only in the city for a short time. 10 cents is nothing for them.
We predicted that there would be a massive increase in paper bag usage. Unfortunately, we were right. If the city had prepared an EIR as we demanded, the city would have known this would happen.
San Francisco has degraded the environment with its plastic bag ban.
Hopefully, our pending lawsuit against the city will result in the ban being overturned and force the Board of Supervisors to make an informed decision based on an EIR instead of wishful thinking.
THE REUSABLE BAG CONTAMINATION ISSUE
Click here to read our letter to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requesting an investigation of reusable bags. Our request for an investigation is based in part on the Oregon norovirus outbreak which was caused by an unwashed reusable bag.
The Department has failed to respond to our letter.
Note: San Francisco is encouraging customers to use their reusable bags for restaurant carryout food. This is totally irresponsible and contrary to the California Retail Food Code.
Click here to download our brief paper (with many photographs) on whether the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" really exists and whether plastic bags are responsible for the deaths of marine life. (Send us an e-mail and we'll send it to you as a PDF file.)
HOW MUCH PLASTIC DEBRIS?
There is no such thing as a Great Pacific Garbage Patch". No responsible scientist contends that it exists. See Myths and Facts section below where this is discussed in detail.
Karen Lavender of the Sea Education Association states:
"If scientists sifted through 2,000 bathtubs worth of plastic contaminated seawater, they'd find just enough micro particles to fill the palm of a person's hand."
Note: Virtually all of the plastic particles that have been found in the ocean are hard plastic. Plastic bags are made of soft plastic. There is no accumulation of plastic bags in the ocean.
THE ALBATROSS VIDEO
YOU BE THE JUDGE
Environmental groups frequently claim that albatrosses are being killed as a result of ingesting plastic bags.
Is the allegation true?
Check here for a short BBC video on the subject. You decide.
WE HAVE PREVENTED MILLIONS OF CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS FROM BEING MISLED BY A FALSE MAP IN THEIR TEXTBOOKS
The State of California has been drafting a chapter for its Eleventh Grade textbooks which addresses plastic bags and the environment. Below you can see a map showing the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" as a gigantic red blob. The red blob map was in the draft textbook.
Click here for a larger copy of the image.
We contacted Cal EPA and proved to them that the red blob map was false and that there is no such thing as a "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."
Dr. Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute states: "There is no island of plastic trash." He says: "The idea of a single, Texas-size garbage patch is the myth of media sensationalism."
There is no accumulation of plastic bags in the ocean.
For more on the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" myth, see Myths and Facts section below and our brief paper on marine myths.
Cal EPA agreed with us.
We are glad to report that Cal EPA has replaced the red blob map with the green and blue map produced by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We commend Cal EPA for refusing to falsely indoctrinate students.
We do not yet know who was responsible for providing the false map to Cal EPA.
THE ANTI-PLASTIC BAG CAMPAIGN IS PART OF CALIFORNIA'S WAR ON ITS OWN ECONOMY
Each year Chief Executive Magazine conducts a survey of 500 Chief Executive Officers. The CEOs are asked which are the best and worst states in which to do business. Their opinions are very important, because they decide where to locate new businesses and whether to expand or reduce their presence in California.
Every year the result of the survey is the same. California is voted 50th out of 50, bottom of the pile. Click here for the 2011 survey.
The survey report states:
"California, once a business friendly state,
continues to conduct a war on its own
economy.... Survey respondents
uniformly say the state’s regulators are hostile. 'No one in his right mind would start a new
manufacturing concern here,' said one
Another CEO quoted in the report said:
"Quit demonizing businesses. Who do they think provide real jobs?"
See also comments
by CEOs in the 2012 survey.
We at the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition can certainly testify to the hostility and outright bias of cities and counties and state legislators. Everything we say is routinely disbelieved and summarily dismissed out of hand, simply because we are "industry."
The sad truth is that most politicians are simply not interested in the facts. They are interested in impressing the right groups and getting reelected.
Look at the photograph below taken at a Los Angeles City Council meeting at which a proposal to ban plastic bags was being discussed.
There are two men sitting at the top.
On the right is Eric Garcetti, President of the City Council.
On the left, in front of the flag, is Dr. Mark Gold, President of Heal the Bay. He is not a member of the City Council, despite where he is seated.
The photograph should send chills down the spines of CEOs.
Does the plastic bag industry, or any industry for that matter, really have a hope of getting a fair hearing when unelected environmental groups have such privileged access and influence?
Businesses of all types are leaving the state in droves as a result of the anti-business attitude of the state and local governments. According
to Spectrum Location Solutions, 254 California companies moved some or all of
their work and jobs out of state in 2011, an increase of 26 percent over the
previous year and five times as many as in 2009.
Each year, there is a major net exodus of people out of California to business friendly and lower tax states.
How many businesses have chosen not to locate in California? We do not know, but California is undoubtedly missing numerous major opportunities for new business as a result of its general anti-business attitude and its outright hostility to manufacturing industries.
The plastic industry, once a major presence and employer in California, has largely been driven out to other states. Incredibly, there are still plastic bag manufacturers in the state, but they are under fierce attack by environmentalists and politicians who pander to them and seem to believe every word they say. The remaining plastic businesses in the state receive calls regularly from business development officials in other states trying to persuade them to join the exodus and relocate.
Many thousands of California jobs and families are dependent on the continued existence of the California plastic bag industry. These jobs are an endangered species.
Environmental zealots who spread misinformation about products such as plastic bags destroy businesses and jobs. They don't care. The politicians who support them seem to be oblivious to the cumulative impact of their actions on California's reputation.
Every time we have shown the Chief Executive Magazine survey to decision makers, they say that they have never seen it before and are surprised by it. Why haven't they seen it?
Alarm bells should be ringing. They are not. The silence is deafening.
The Golden State is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
MYTHS AND FACTS
As a result of misinformation, many people believe that plastic bags kill 100,000 sea mammals and a million seabirds each year. The media is relentlessly spreading this misinformation. The San Jose Mercury News recently stated in an editorial: "Plastic bags kill an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other animals every year, whether from eating the things or getting tangled in them." NOT TRUE. The London Times has exposed this as a myth based on a typographical error! The report on which the myth is based mentioned discarded fishing tackle including fishing nets, not plastic bags. Click here to read the London Times article. David Santillo, a marine biologist at Greenpeace, told The Times: “It’s very unlikely that many animals are killed by plastic bags. The evidence shows just the opposite." (Click here.) In a report by the US National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the authors state (at page 9): "There are very few, if any, published records of small
plastics as the direct cause of mortality in sea turtles." Click here for a report from the Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to see what is really killing turtles. The answer is NOT plastic bags! Click here for an article about the 4,600 turtles killed in US fisheries every year by fishing nets and lines, not plastic bags. Click here to view a short BBC video about what albatrosses are ingesting. It not plastic bags.
- We are told repeatedly by environmentalists that there is an island of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas. The media repeats this assertion over and over again. For example, in an editorial on June 24, 2010 the Los Angeles Times stated: "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of the ocean larger than Texas and thick with floating plastic debris: bottles, bottle caps, bits of packaging and uncountable plastic bags." NOT TRUE.
The Chief Scientist of the Scripps 20-day expedition to study marine debris in the Pacific Ocean states: "Misinformation on this issue is rampant." Referring to a statement in the New York Times that there is "…an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas," she states: "There is no evidence for this. There certainly is a lot of trash, but there have been no measurements of either the trash’s total area or its growth rate."
An Oregon State University professor who is knowledgable on the subject and who participated in a 2008 expedition to the Pacific states: “The amount of plastic out there isn’t trivial. But using the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size. Another way to look at it is to compare the amount of plastic found to the amount of water in which it was found. If we were to filter the surface area of the ocean equivalent to a football field in waters having the highest concentration (of plastic) ever recorded, the amount of plastic recovered would not even extend to the 1-inch line." Click here and here to read what the professor says.
The Sea Education Association based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts has surveyed plastic debris in the Atlantic Ocean for the past 22 years. They are now reporting that the concentration of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean has not increased over the past 22 years, despite the increased production of plastics during that period. They were surprised to find that there was no overall change in the amount of plastic snared from 1986 to 2008. Karen Lavender, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association said:
"I expected to see the line go right up. It took us a good year to decide no, we have not seen an increase, no matter how you slice it."
Each half-hour trawl in the area where the concentration was the highest typically turned up just 20 tiny pieces, equivalent to about 0.3 grams in all. By comparison, a U.S. nickel weighs 5 grams.
Karen Lavender states: "If scientists sifted through 2,000 bathtubs' worth of plastic-contaminated seawater, they'd find just enough micro particles to fill the palm of a person's hand."
In its EIR, Los Angeles County calls the claims by environmental groups on this issue "misleading." (EIR at 13-38.)
Check the video below to see how much garbage was collected by the Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute from a 24 hour trawl over 50 miles through the "garbage patch." Can you see any garbage in the ocean? Ask yourself if the amount of debris collected over 24 hours and 50 miles of trawling is a sufficient justification to ban plastic bags.
(Note that the sample jar at the end of the video does not only contain debris. It appears to have at least two fish in it.)
Dr. Eriksen now admits: "There is no island of plastic trash." He says: "The idea of a single, Texas-size garbage patch is the myth of media sensationalism."
Save The Bay makes the following claim in
a press release: "It is estimated that about one million of these
[plastic] bags wind up in the Bay each year where they pollute the water,
smother wetlands and entangle and kill animals." NOT TRUE. This is just a headline grabbing
statistic invented by Save The Bay. It has no basis in fact. We have not seen
any plastic bags in the bay and U.S. Coast Guard personnel who cruise
the bay every day have told us that they have not seen any either. Now that does not mean that there are no bags in the bay, but the figure of 1 million per year has absolutely no basis in fact.
- Two LA County Supervisors claim: "About $375 million is spent in California on cleanups and other efforts to mitigate the environmental effect of disposable bags, costing each household about $200." NOT TRUE. The Supervisors are apparently unable to do simple arithmetic. The population of California is 36.4 million. $375 million divided by 36.4 million is $10.30 per person. Moreover, $375 million is the entire litter budget for cleaning up all kinds of litter, not just plastic bags. Plastic bags are less than 1% of litter, which means that the annual cost per person is 10 cents! (Click here.)
- Los Angeles County is asserting that "as much as 25 percent of the litter stream" is plastic carryout bags. (LA County Initial Study at pages 1-3 and 3.9-5.) NOT TRUE. The assertion is ridiculous. Anyone can see with their own eyes that it is not true. A San Francisco Department of the Environment litter audit conducted before plastic bags were banned in that city showed that plastic bags were only 0.6% of the litter stream. The Florida figure is 0.72%. The Toronto figure is 0.13% (page 35 of Toronto study). (Click here.)
- As a result of misinformation, many people believe that plastic bags are not recyclable. NOT TRUE. Special plastic bag recycling bins have been installed in large supermarkets and retail stores throughout California since 2007. Virtually all of the plastic bags deposited in those bins are actually recycled. (Click here.)
- As a result of misinformation, many people believe that plastic bags "clog up" landfills. NOT TRUE. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, plastic bags (including retail bags) use up only 0.4% of landfill space. (Click here.)
- As a result of misinformation, many people believe that it is a disadvantage that plastic bags "last a thousand years" in landfills. NOT TRUE. In fact it is an advantage! Governments have been searching for ways to sequester and trap CO2 underground so that it doesn't escape into the atmosphere. Plastic does it automatically! Decomposing paper in landfills produces methane which is a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat trapping power of CO2. (Click here.)
- As a result of misinformation, many people believe that plastic bags are made of oil. NOT TRUE. They are made of ethane which is a waste product from domestically produced natural gas. If the ethane is not used to make plastic bags, it will have to be burned off. (Click here.)
As a result of misinformation, many people believe that paper bags are better for the environment than plastic bags. NOT TRUE. Paper bags result in between 2.0 and 3.3 times more greenhouse gases than plastic bags. The life cycle of paper bags results in far more water and air pollution and other negative environmental impacts than the life cycle of plastic bags. Paper is not an environmentally friendly product by any stretch of the imagination. (Click here.)
Anti-plastic bag activists claim that the global warming impact of increasing paper bag usage is not significant. NOT TRUE. Banning plastic carryout bags throughout California would have the same annual impact on greenhouse gas emissions as adding between 92,280 and 212,243 passenger vehicles. (Click here.)
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORTS
EIRs on plastic bag bans have been prepared and certified in various counties and cities, including the following:
LOS ANGELES COUNTY: In 2009, Los Angeles County issued an Initial Study and determined that banning plastic bags may have a significant negative effect on the environment and that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must therefore be prepared. On October 28, 2010, the County issued its Final EIR. On November 16, 2010, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance banning plastic bags and imposing a 10-cent fee on paper bags. It also certified its Final EIR. Click here for a two-page summary of the Los Angeles County EIR. Los Angeles County determined, based on the EIR, that even with a 10-cent paper bag fee "the cumulative indirect GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions resulting from implementation of the recommended ordinances will have the potential to result in significant unavoidable impacts." The County further "determined that the incorporation of mitigation measures [such as promoting the use of reusable bags] is not expected to reduce the potential indirect impact of the recommended ordinances to GHG emissions below the level of significance." THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG!!! CITY OF SAN JOSE: San Jose issued its Final EIR. On December 14, 2010, the San Jose City Council adopted an ordinance banning plastic carryout bags and imposing a fee on paper bags. The initial paper bag fee is 10 cents. The paper bag fee automatically increases to 25 cents in 2014. The City determined in the EIR that a 25 cent paper bag fee is necessary to prevent the ordinance from having a net negative environmental impact, because paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags. Simply switching from plastic to paper bags is environmentally harmful. AGAIN, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG!!! San Jose City Council member Kansen Chu, who spearheaded the ban, said this about the EIR: "We took our time -- a little too long by my measurement -- but we did a solid environmental study and found that paper is not really very environmentally friendly either. So we said, 'Well maybe we should consider a limitation on the paper bag as well.'" CITY OF SANTA MONICA: Santa Monica issued an Initial Study and determined that banning plastic bags may have a significant effect on the environment. On January 25, 2010, the City adopted an ordinancebanning plastic bags and imposing a 10 cent fee on paper bags provided by supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies. On the same day, it certified its Final EIR.
Santa Monica determined in its EIR that a 10 cent paper bag fee is necessary to prevent the ordinance from having a net negative environmental impact, because paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags. Simply switching from plastic to paper bags is environmentally harmful. ONCE AGAIN, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG!!!
We commend the Santa Monica City Council for making important changes to its ordinance based on the findings in its EIR and the Los Angeles County EIR. The changes were (i) acceptance of polyethylene reusable bags, which Los Angeles County determined in its EIR are far better for the environment than cloth or polypropylene reusable bags; and (ii) permitting restaurants to use plastic bags for prepared food to be consumed off the premises, thereby preventing a major environmentally detrimental switch to paper bags. (The city did not plan to impose a fee on restaurant paper bags.) This proves the value of EIRs!
CITY OF PALO ALTO: In 2009, Palo Alto banned plastic bags without imposing a fee on paper bags. Its present ban affects only four stores. Phil Bobel, the Palo Alto City official spearheading the anti-plastic bag initiative, is now saying that one unforseen side effect of the ban is that many stores are switching to paper bags. Unforseen? We warned him and the City Council repeatedly and in writing before the City adopted the ordinance that people would switch to paper bags if no fee is imposed on paper bags, but they wouldn't listen. The City should have done an EIR before adopting the ordinance. Fortunately, Palo Alto has agreed to prepare an EIR before banning plastic bags at any more stores. GREEN CITIES: Green Cities California has published a "Master Environmental Assessment" to assist cities and counties in preparing their EIRs. This is not the same as an EIR.
In her book "Plastic, A Toxic Love Story" (at page 161), Susan Freinkel writes as follows: "When the [Green Cities] report was completed, in early 2010, it confirmed what Joseph [Save The Plastic Bag Coalition's counsel] had been saying all along: paper bags carry more severe environmental impacts than plastic. That finding was surprising to some plastic-bag-ban advocates, including Carol Misseldine, director of Green Cities California, the group that commissioned the report."
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