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Difference between revisions of "Arcata plastic bags"

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(Seattle Plastic Bag Tax)
(San Francisco Plastic Bag Tax)
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=====San Francisco Plastic Bag Tax=====
=====San Francisco Plastic Bag Tax (2004)=====
*Overview - An ordinance requiring a 17¢ fee on each bag provided at supermarket checkout counters.
*Overview - An ordinance requiring a 17¢ fee on each bag provided at supermarket checkout counters.
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**5) Possibility of transferring business to surrounding communities. <ref> </ref>
**5) Possibility of transferring business to surrounding communities. <ref> </ref>
*Lessons learned / hopeful outcomes
**Hurried with the passage of California Assembly Bill AB 2449 - which requires all CA grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags. The bill also requires retailers to provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity. Retailers and manufactures will be required to implement a public education program, and all bags must be labeled 'Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling.' <ref>
 + </ref>
=====San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban=====
=====San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban=====

Revision as of 02:16, 24 October 2010

ENGR308 Page in Progress
This page is a page in progress by students in Engr308 Technology and the Environment. Please refrain from making edits unless you are a member of the project team, but feel free to make comments using the discussion tab. Check back for the finished version on December 15, 2010.

This is a research project in partnership between Engr308 Technology and the Environment and the City of Arcata, during Fall 2010, to explore the reasons for and effects of a single use plastic ban bag would have in Arcata, Humboldt County.


Please list your team name, lab # and team member names (with user pages linked) here, as follows:


Make sure not to plagiarize. Use the format of subsections (four = signs in this case) on various topics and references using footnotes[1]. Do not editorialize. Just paraphrase what you learn.

Click the edit tab for your section.

Existing programs in other locations - Lab 1

In California, Malibu, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Fairfax all ban single use, plastic bags. Just this year, lawmakers shot down a ban on single use plastic bags statewide. Elsewhere, Washington D.C. requires a charge to use grocery bags, while North Carolina banned single use and non-recyclable plastic bags in the Outer Banks. [1]

In January, bans take effect in Maui and Kauai, Hawaii, Brownsville, Texas, and February brings about a ban in American Samoa. Bans are already in place in Westport, Connecticut; Bethel, Alaska; and Edmonds, Washington. There are also campaigns to ban Plastic bags in half a dozen other California cities and counties, including San Jose and L.A. [2]

However, in the last 2 years, 11 states have attempted to ban single use plastic bags, and none of them succeeded. Seattle, Washington attempted to pass a tax on each bag used, but was voted down when it was put to voters. [3]

There has been multiple countries that has banned the use of plastic bags, of these include China. "Under the new rules, businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 inches) thick, according to the order issued by the State Council, China’s Cabinet." [4] With a population around 1.3 billion China uses 37 million barrels of oil a year on Plastic Bag Production. [5]

Existing programs in other locations - Lab 2

  • County of Maui, HI [2]
    • Starting Jan 11th 2011 the county of Maui is enacting a plastic bag ban. Siting unsightly litter, additional burden on landfills as well as the potential death of marine animals for reasons to enact a plastic bag ban. Currently a voluntary plastic ban reduction program is being followed by some locals.
  • City of Malibu, CA
    • This Banning of single use plastic bags was put forward by presentations by local students and representatives from environmental groups on Monday, May, 12, 2008. This was followed by unanimously approval from the City Council. [3] Ordinance 323 was adopted May 27, 2008 and effective December 27, 2008. On the latter day Grocery Stores, Food Vendors, Restaurants, Pharmacies, and City facilities were mandated to comply. The rest of the remaining Retail and Commercial businesses were required to comply on June, 27, 2009.[4]
  • City of Baltimore, MD [5]
    • A bag reduction program was enacted enforcing the reduction of plastic bags on the 22nd of March 2010. Enforcing reusable bag standards such as a minimum bag thickness of 2.25 millimeters.
  • City of Chicago, IL [6]
    • A plastic bag recycling ordinance was created July 19, 2010 to encourage waste diversion by recycling single use bags at stores. Enforcement is controlled by annual reports to the Department of Environment “providing the weight, location and cost for recycling the plastic bags.”
  • San Fransisco, CA
    • A single use plastic bag ban was enacted in March of 2007 by the city of San Fransisco. Leading the way for many other bay area cities. Such as ****
  • City of San Jose, CA
    • A single use plastic bag restriction is being considered. Still allowing the use of 40% recycled plastic bags. Currently you can purchase a bag for 10 cents, but expect an increase to 25 cents in two years 2012-2013. [7]
  • City of Brownsville, TX [8]
    • A voluntary bag ban is encouraged until the date of January 1, 2011 when a plastic bag ban will be enforced. Realizing the City of Brownsville has “a duty to protect the environment, the economy and the health of its citizens” this plastic bag ban was enacted. The ordinance also widens city ordinances to include litter, the start of cleaning up a town.

Existing research in plastic bags - Lab 1

  • Lots of data regarding carbon, water and other values one would find in an LCA.

Environmental Impacts

Producing 1 kg of polyethylene (PET or LDPE), requires the equivalent of 2 kg of oil for energy and raw material. Polyethylene (PE) is the most commonly used plastic for plastic bags. Burning 1 kg of oil creates about 3 kg of carbon dioxide. In other words: Per kg of plastic, about 6 kg carbon dioxide is created during production and incineration".[9]

Studies have been done in major cities across the globe to determine the impacts of one-time use plastic carryout bags on the environment. Here is the data from one such study completed in Los Angeles County in 2009. [10]

Data is provided by Ecobilan, which is "a department of PricewaterhouseCoopers that provides analysis of the environmental performance of products and services prepared a comprehensive LCA in 2004 that shows the impacts of paper carryout bags, reusable low-density polyethylene plastic bags, and plastic carryout bags made of high-density polyethylene upon the emission of various air pollutants such as VOCs, NOx, CO, SOx." [10] [11]

In this section, emissions related to plastic carry-out bags are compared to those of paper carry-out bags

Emissions Sources

Air Pollutant Emissions (Pounds/Day)

VOCs NOx CO SOx Particulates
Emissions attributed to the 67 stores

in the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County

(assuming 10,000 plastic carryout bags used per day per store)

87 62 111 54 44
Emissions attributed to the 462 stores

in the incorporated cities of Los Angeles County

(assuming 10,000 plastic carryout bags used per day per store)

601 429 764 371 304
Total emissions 688 492 874 425 348

Emissions Sources

Air Pollutant Emissions (Pounds/Day)

VOCs NOx CO SOx Particulates
Emissions attributed to the 67 stores

in the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County

(assuming 6,836 paper carryout bags used per day per store)2

450 1,150 148 414 75
Emissions attributed to the 462 stores

in the incorporated cities of Los Angeles County

(assuming 6,836 paper carryout bags used per day per store)2

601 429 764 371 304
Total emissions 515 1,317 169 473 86

The following table is a summary of key indicators from a LCA study in the Handbook of Biodegradable Polymers[12]


LDPE - Low density polyethylene

PET - Polyethylene terephthalate

PCL - Polycaprolactone

PLA - Polylactide

PHA - Polyhydroxyalkanoates

Type of plastic Cradle to grave


energy use (MJ per Kg)

Type of wast treatment Green House Gas emissions

(kg CO2 per kg)

LDPE 80.6 Incineration 5.04
PET (bottle) 77 Incineration 4.93
PCL 83 Incineration 3.1
Mater-Bitm starch film grade 53.5 Incineration 1.21
PLA 57 Incineration 3.84
PHA 81 Incineration Not Available

Existing research in plastic bags - Lab 2

Efficacy of other programs and campaigns - Lab 1

Domestic Bag Bans

State of California Proposed Bag Ban
  • description

Problem with Plastic Bags

  • Around 19 billion plastic bags are used yearly throughout California [13]
  • Less than 5% recycled [14]
  • Almost all plastic bags at one point will become litter [15]
  • "Plastic bags are a key component of the plastic pollution choking our land, our oceans, and our wildlife" [16]

  • Pros
    • Plastic bags cost Californians $25 million a year in cleanup fees [17]
    • Bags made of virgin paper would also be banned meaning they could only use material that is at least 40 percent post-consumer content [18]
    • [19]
  • Cons
    • 1
    • 2
San Francisco Bag Ban

In 2007, San Francisco passed a city ordinance to ban plastic bag use in supermarkets and pharmacies that make more then 2 million dollars a year. [20].

  • Pros
    • A 50 percent drop in plastic bag litter since the ban took effect[21]
    • 5 million less plastic shopping bags a month [22]
  • Cons
    • The ban only applies to grocery stores grossing two million dollars or more a year, when it needs to applied to all stores[23]
    • Paper bags are as environmentaly damaging as plastic bags [23]
    • Street Litter Audits commissioned by the city in 2008 found there had actually been a slight rise in the number of plastic bags picked up off the city's streets since the ban. While hundreds of millions bags are still being used. [23]
  • Lessons learned
    • District 5 supervisor Ross Mirkarimi beleives a bag fee is the only reasonable way to reduce the usage is plastic bags. Mirkarimi's ultimate goal from the beginning has been for consumers to bring their own bags. He is know to carry up to five canvas bags on him at all times. [23].
    • Too early to see actual effects.
Los Angeles Bag Ban
  • The Los Angeles bag ban has passed but will only go into effect if the state wide ban to implement a fee on shoppers who request plastic bags fails to go into effect. [24]
  • Pros
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cons
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hopeful outcomes.
    • Los Angeles city council member hope the ban will cause consumers to carry their own reusable bags which will reduce the amount of plastic washing into the city's storm drains and into the Pacific Ocean. [25]

Washington D.C. Bag Tax
  • The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the Untied States to pass a bag fee law.[26]
  • The January of 2010 tax on bags is a success story in many aspects
    • The city reduced the amount of single bag use from 22 million to 3 million each month by charging a nickel for each bag.[27]
    • The tax generated funds to help with the Anacostia River clean up.
    • People seem to be adapting to the tax well.
    • Through working with stakeholders, and communicating with shopkeepers, an agreement was mad to tax both paper and plastic bags
    • There have been no problems enforcing the tax[28]

International Bans on Plastic Bags

Ireland Bag Ban
  • One of the more successful bag bans in the world, hailing a 90% reduction rate.[29] A 15 cent(euro) tax was implented, except the tax was not on the business but the consumer. That is believed to be a large part of the success is the consumers directly saw the new tax.[30]
  • Pros
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cons
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lessons Learned

Efficacy of other programs and campaigns - Lab 2

United States

  • Washington D.C.

The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009(Bill 18-150)passed June 16, 2009 The policy enacted a 5-cent tax on paper and plastic bags. from every 5 cents a penny goes to the business, and the other four cents would go into a fund to clean up the Anacostia River and it's tributaries.

    • The tax has raised $150,000 which will transfer into $10 million over the next four years [31]
    • Prior to the passing of the law an estimated 22.5 million plastic bags per month
    • After a survey of area businesses, many are reporting a 50-60% reduction in bag usage at their stores
    • One business within the district a 70% reduction within the first year
    • The Anacostia Restoration Fund has collected approximately $1.3 million through September 2010
    • Local non-profits groups have reported a 60% reduction in the plastic bags present at watershed wide clean-ups[32]

  • Malibu
San Francisco Plastic Bag Tax (2004)
  • Overview - An ordinance requiring a 17¢ fee on each bag provided at supermarket checkout counters.
  • Pros
    • 1) Reduction in Litter. [33]
    • 2) Reduced threats to marine life. [34]
    • 3) Reduced 'batch contamination' that costs the city $649,000 per year. [35]
    • 4) Climate benefits. [36]
  • Cons
    • 1) Industry opposition from the California Grocers Association and the American Plastics Council. [37]
    • 2) Costs are passed on to the consumer. [38]
    • 3) Incompatibility with existing recycling programs. [39]
    • 4) Potential effects on customer convenience. [40]
    • 5) Possibility of transferring business to surrounding communities. [41]
  • Lessons learned / hopeful outcomes
    • Hurried with the passage of California Assembly Bill AB 2449 - which requires all CA grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags. The bill also requires retailers to provide consumers with a bag reuse opportunity. Retailers and manufactures will be required to implement a public education program, and all bags must be labeled 'Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling.' [42]
San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban
  • As of March 2010, no comprehensive studies have been conducted to determine the ban's efficacy. [43]
  • Pros
    • 1) Protects Marine Environment [44]
    • 2)
  • Cons
    • 1) May not address litter problem. [45]
    • 2) May add cost to retail operations. [46]
    • 3) Composting not required. [47]
  • Lessons learned / hopeful outcomes
    • 1) Fees introduced to producers and indirectly to consumers are relatively ineffective at reducing plastic bag consumption. Consumers should be aware of the additional fees per bag so that they will change their behavior. Fees that are directly passed onto consumers have been effective at altering behavior. If these fees are applied to only one type of bag however, they will likely lead consumers to switch to other disposable bags or more prepackaged goods. [48]
    • 2)
Seattle Public Opinion Survey[49]
  • 6 out of 10 disagreed that the City should charge a fee to shoppers for every plastic bag
  • 7 out of 10 agreed that public funds should be spent for promoting reusable bags
  • Current Bag Use
    • Almost always plastic - 20%
    • Almost always paper - 20%
    • Almost always own bag - 16%
    • Sometimes own bag - 20%
    • Sometimes plastic/sometimes paper - 18%
    • Other - 6%
  • 38% use plastic bags at least sometimes. Most likely were:
    • Single parents (44% Almost Always)
    • Renters (33% vs. 15% of homeowners)
    • Making under $50,000 a year (34% Almost Always vs. 14% of those earning over $50,000)
    • Not working (32% Almost Always)
    • Men 28% Almost Always (Women 14%)
  • 36% bring their own at least sometimes. Most likely were:
    • Public sector employees (47%)
    • Couples with children at home (44%)
    • Women (42%)
  • Willingness to Pay Bag Fee
    • Not willing to pay - 17%
    • <5 cents - 28%
    • 5 cents - 25%
    • 10 cents - 17%
    • 25 cents - 8%
    • >25 cents - 3%
    • No data - 2%

Most willing to pay were:

    • Earn less than $25,000 a year (88% willing to pay;

49% willing to pay 5¢ or more)

    • Daily Shoppers (60%)
    • Under age 35 (49% willing to pay 10¢ or more)

International Programs


After a 15 Euro cent tax on plastic bags:

  • Approximately a 90% reduction in use of plastic bags
  • "reduced litter and negative landscape effects"
  • "overwhelmingly positive" response from the public and storeowners alike
  • In Europe, taxing for environmental reasons is not a new concept. (Perhaps this adds to the acceptance of a tax on plastic bags.)
  • In the neighboring Northern Ireland, there is no tax on plastic bags. It is "highly unlikely" that shoppers would travel there to avoid the levy because it is such a minor portion of the total amount spent on any given shopping excursion. The soundness of this assumption is augmented by the fact that diesel and petrol costs do differ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; in this instance, consumers cross borders to avoid the more expensive fuel.
  • The Irish Business Against Litter and the National Trust of Ireland together conducted litter surveys after the levy was imposed to evaluate its effects. "Between January 2002 and April 2003 the number of "clear" areas (i.e. areas in which there is no evidence of plastic bag litter) has increased by 21%, while the number of areas without ‘‘traces’’16 has increased by 56%."
  • In comparison, "the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System notes that plastic bag litter accounted for 5% of national litter composition before the introduction of the levy. In 2002, this number fell to 0.32%, in 2003 to 0.25% and to 0.22% in 2004."


  • Table 3 reports a survey which had a 42.74% response rate. It has a margin of error of ±9.8%. The restriction of the survey to the 01 area code excludes people without a landline and those who do not live in the Dublin area.


  • Effects on the plastic bag industry:
    • In 1999, it was estimated that 79% of plastic bags were imported. The rest were produced in 4 factories in the Republic of Ireland, one of which has shut down since then, resulting in 26 job-losses. "It is uncertain whether this would have happened even in the absence of the levy."
  • "Ensuring stakeholder and consumer acceptance of the tax is central to the successful implementation of such a tax. Informational campaigns highlighting the environmental impacts and hypothecation of revenues into an environment fund are central in ensuring such acceptance. In the case of this tax, high-level support from both the supporting minister and the treasury was also required."


South Africa

Challenges - Lab 1

Plastic bag bans in San Francisco and other areas have resulted in most people simply switching to paper bags. It has also resulted in law suits, and in Oakland the ban was overturned by plastic industry plaintiffs who argued that a plastic-only ban was illegal since there were no studies on the effects of increased paper bag usage. This illustrates that "plastic-only bans have proved vulnerable to legal challenges," and that if the end-state is supposed to be a complete shift to reusable bags, then there is no reason to leave paper bags out of a bag ban, especially since it renders the ban legally unstable.[51]

Significant Interest Groups Against Ban

  • Small businesses: expensive to implement
  • Consumer groups: inflated grocery bills, California expanding deficit
  • American Chemistry Council (ACC): think plastic bag ban is irrelevant, desire more efforts towards recycling[52]


Challenges - Lab 2

  • Laws, SIGs, etc.

Environmental Justice issues - Lab 1

  • Health effects, secondary effects, other issues.

Environmental Justice issues - Lab 2

  • Health effects, secondary effects, other issues.

Who is working on this in Humboldt

  • If you come across programs, individuals or organizations already going on in Humboldt. Please list them here.

General Awesomeness

  • Chico Bag - a reusable bag company that has a "Take Action Page" including Google map feature that has pins on the map for every place that has or has tried a bag ban![53]
  • EPA on paper vs. plastic bags[54]


  1. Help:Footnotes
  2. County of Maui
  7. Notice of Availability from the City of San Jose
  8. City of Brownsville
  10. 10.0 10.1
  18. Reference
  19. Reference
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3
  32. Murphy, Environmental Protection Specialist, Stormwater Management Division, District Department of the Environment
  53. ChicoBag Re-usable bag movement page
  54. [ EPA on paper vs. plastic