As the state of California considers the proposed ban on single use plastic bags, lets address the rhetoric about how this might affect lower income people.
“There is no such thing as a free plastic bag. Every time you get a plastic bag at the grocery store, that cost is included in the price of your groceries,” said Lisa Boyle, co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “It’s a cost we can no longer afford.”
Right now, when people buy food, the cost of bags is embedded in the price of food. We pay about 2-5 cents for plastic bags and 5-23 cents for paper bags. Based upon average bag usage, the City of San Francisco Department of the Environment estimates costs of about $18-$30 per a year per person.
Then, we pay to clean the mess caused by these same bags. Statewide, about $375M is spent each year to clean and landfill discarded bags. This is money that should be going to vital citizen services (and jobs) instead.
In many countries around the world people shop without single use plastic bags: all of China, parts of Africa (the bags were too great for inland blight, and clogged water pumps), part of Australia, Mexico City, parts of India, etc. 25% of the world’s population lives in a place where there are no single use bags.
Sadly, lower income people in every country are the ones most affected by the inland urban blight caused by blow-away single use bags.
And finally, please note: the bill has a provision for free reusable bags to lower income people and a gradual ramp up to allow for time to save bags.
A ban on single use plastic bags will save everyone money.