Two of Sacramento's City Council members would like to see a ban on plastic shopping bags, according to the February 9, 2013 Sacramento Bee's article by Ryan Lillis, "Plastic bag ban could be in Sacramento's future." San Francisco and other California coastal cities advocated for a ban on plastic shopping bags because environmentalists supporting the Sacramento ordinance said plastic bags are a big contributor to something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of trash in the ocean estimated to be as large as Texas, according to the Sacramento Bee article.
You can still recycle those plastic grocery bags so they don't clog garbage truck machinery or create a trash problem eventually in oceans, creeks, and rivers or get blown by the wind along the city streets. If you look at the tracks in some light rail depots, you'll see not only plastic bags tossed there, but also plastic cups, paper take-out fast-food bags, and other litter. The issue also is how much respect you have for others to keep the public places clear of litter in a city where the elevators at some light rail stations have smelled of urine for decades and litter fills up the stairwells on a weekly basis?
Meanwhile you can recycle plastic bags rather than dump them in your garbage can. Place your dry, clean plastic bags that are not biodegradable in one big bag and return them to the plastic bag recycle bin at your supermarket. Some of these bins are located in the parking lots of supermarkets. If the ban doesn't pass in Sacramento, you can bring a collection of plastic bags placed in one big plastic bag to any recycle bin that says "plastic bag recycle bins." Tell your supermarket manager to set up such a bin so you can return all the plastic bags to such a plastics recycling bin. Or check out the site, Sacramento Recycling Guide - CalRecycle. Also see the sites, Californians Against Waste and Wal-Mart Launches Statewide Plastic Bag Recycling Program.
Plastic bags also are clogging the garbage trucks that remove waste. Machinery at the local waste transfer station are forced to shut down several times daily to unclog conveyors stopped up from plastic bags caught in the machine works. It's like a paper jam but instead of your printer being jammed, the machinery at Sacramento's local waste transfer station gets a plastic bag jam of its own. And it takes time to pull out the plastic bags.
If plastic bags are banned not only at grocery stores, but also at the huge, chain store retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, and CVS, you'll have to bring your own bag or pay a dime or a nickel for a paper bag. Some Sacramentans using personal shopping carts are buying large plastic garbage bags, the 55-gallon drum can varieties to line personal shopping carts if they're walking instead of driving to nearby shopping marts (or using public transportation to shop for food and grocery items usually purchased at supermarkets or pharmacies.)
In the past, about 60 local governments around the state that have passed some level of bag regulation since 2011. Sacramento Council members are also considering an ordinance that would require stores to charge a nickel or dime for paper shopping bags. The money charged would go to the stores, not to the city. The issue many customers have who enjoy the paper bags is that they also can be used more cheaply to throw kitchen garbage such as fruit peels and egg shells for those who don't compost or apartment dwellers needing to staple paper bags with household garbage that can't be put in the paper recycling can.
Council members Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty expect to ask a council subcommittee later this month to direct city staff to draft a plastic bag ordinance. That law could be heard by the City Council as early as this summer. Will Sacramento prohibit plastic bags? After all, nobody wants to contribute to the mass of trash floating in the ocean that's killing off sea birds, fish, and making a mess of the ocean as a dumping ground for plastic containers and bags.
The goal in Sacramento is sustainability. People who are asked to buy their own tote bags argue that the canvas, cloth, or recycled plastic tote bags that don't get thrown away and are constantly re-used soon become contaminated with bacteria. No one wants fresh produce tossed into a canvas, cloth, or recycled plastic tote bag used over and over without washing to contaminate raw produce such as spinach and parsley or carrots, not already packaged in a protective bag.
And those who wash their tote bags in the washing machine where clothing is washed are further contaminating the bags, unless bleach or other anti-microbial cleaners are used. Even plain soap gets rid of some of the bacteria if washed in a clean washing machine separate from your clothing. Opponents of the proposed ban on plastic bags don't like the idea of 1,900 Californians working in the plastic grocery bag industry whose jobs are at risk if the ban on plastic bags passes. The ban would also affect supermarkets, large discount stores, restaurants, fast-food eateries (takeout) or other large chain stores in Sacramento and the Central California Valley.
You can check out the 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University which noted that reusable bags are "havens for bacteria and that 5.5 people die each year in San Francisco as a result of food-borne illnesses spread by those bags," according to the Sacramento Bee article. For more information on the study, check out the articles, "Plastic Bag Ban Responsible For Spike In E. Coli Infections, Study, Plastic Bag Bans Have Unintended Consequences, and Plastic Bag Bans Have Unintended Consequences.
In a 2011 study, four researchers examined reusable bags in California and Arizona and found that 51 percent of them contained coliform bacteria, according to the article, "Plastic Bag Bans Have Unintended Consequences." also reports that the problem appears to be the habits of the reusers. Seventy-five percent said they keep meat and vegetables in the same bag.
When bags were stored in hot car trunks for two hours, the bacteria grew tenfold
That study also found, happily, that washing the bags eliminated 99.9 percent of the bacteria. But what would you use to kill the bacteria if your washing machine is contaminated by bacteria from a previous washing of clothing? You can't bleach fancy, colored tote bags or they'd look spotty from the bleach. You could try hydrogen peroxide, but that's expensive. Or borax, Oxyclean, and other detergents and cleaners added to your usual soap. But most people don't wash their tote bags used for groceries, or at least not often enough.
The study found that 97 percent of people reported that they never wash their bags. The article also reports that Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, who are law professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University, respectively, have done a more recent study on the public-health impact of plastic-bag bans.
That study looked at emergency-room admissions related to E. coli infections and found that they increased in San Francisco after the ban. (Nearby counties did not show this increase.) And this effect showed up as soon as the ban was implemented. The article, (“There is a clear discontinuity at the time of adoption.”) The San Francisco ban was also associated with increases in salmonella and other bacterial infections. Similar effects were found in other California towns that adopted such laws, according to the article, "Plastic Bag Bans Have Unintended Consequences." What you'd have to do if the ban passes is change your habits of how you clean those grocery shopping bags or tote bags. or you could line your personal shopping cart with fresh plastic garbage bags that you'd then have to throw away which would further create larger plastic waste issues. The trick is to keep washing your shopping bags if they're reusable.
As far as for San Francisco, your take-out fast-food or other items will be affected since the San Francisco ordinance will also apply to restaurants but if passed in Sacramento, the ban would not apply to restaurants at least not for now
The ban on restaurants is not being considered here in Sacramento. The plastic bag ban would apply only to large grocery stores but not to small groceries such as the mom and pop stores or the ethnic food markets.
If the ban passes, it's a start and could eventually apply to other types of stores if extended in reach sometime in the future. Consider the environmental impacts as well as the plastic bag litter from fast-food eateries dumped in the street daily, especially at the public transportation sites and along various city streets here. For further information, see the article, "Plastic bag ban could be in Sacramento's future."
Before plastic bags were used, supermarkets used brown paper bag sacks. Today, nobody wants to see more trees cut down to make paper bags that get torn and trashed. But if paper were to be recycled or paper substitute developed that wouldn't use trees because trees make oxygen and clean up the air, that might be a better solution. But for now, it looks like fabric bags may be in the future, if people wash them frequently and not keep vegetables and meats in the same bag in a hot car where bacteria quickly reproduces.