Is The California Plastic Bag Ban Working To Reduce Litter?
Evaluating The Benefit of Plastic Bag Bans and Prop 67 One Year Later
In November of 2016 California voters approved a statewide plastic bag ban. The goal of the California bag ban was to reduce plastic bag litter, along with the cost to clean up the mess and the resulting environmental problems. One year after the plastic bag ban was passed residents have noticed the impact.
The Spread of Plastic Bag Bans In The US
California has long been at the center of the movement to ban plastic bags. Prior to the statewide ban over 100 cities, counties and municipalities across California had implemented measures to ban or impose fees on single-use plastic bags. As plastic bag bans spread throughout the Golden State, the movement also began to gain traction across the entire country.
The Problem with Plastic Bags
Disposable plastic bags generate a lot of trash which is one BIG reason for plastic bag bans. Recycling rates for these thin film bags are low, due to the difficulty of processing them for recycling. The bags commonly end up in landfills or as litter. This means virgin materials have to be used to create new bags, and these new bags are likely to end up as litter instead of being recycled. Litter of any kind is an eyesore and potentially dangerous to wildlife, but discarded plastic bags are major offenders. Prior to the ban being
Prior to the ban being enacted, it is estimated that 15 billion disposable plastic bags were handed out in California. Most of these bags were destined for landfills or to be litter. The sheer amount of plastic bag trash found along the California coast was staggering.
California’s Plastic Bag Ban Results
The plastic bag ban in California was intended to reduce litter and cost to remove it, keep our wildlife safe and reduce the impact of plastic on our food chain. One year after the ban was approved, plastic bag litter is significantly decreased.
John Laird, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources explained, “We are seeing a substantial decline in plastic grocery bags litter on beaches, rivers and parkways.” Findings based on recent beach cleanups put the amount of disposable plastic bag litter at 1.5 percent of the total amount of litter picked up. For comparison, in 2010 plastic bag trash accounted for about 10 percent of the total amount of litter. Plastic bag bans like the one in California are clearly working.
Impact of California’s Plastic Bag Ban
California’s plastic bag ban has been an incredible success to date. The longer the ban is in place likely the more effective it will become. The litter problem is by no means completely resolved, but removing plastic bags is a major step in winning the battle against litter. Plastic bag bans and making the switch to reusable products in place of disposable can have a major impact.
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