Sierra Club members and other backers of Proposition 67 gathered in front of a mammoth inflatable turtle and a pile of grocery bags at Emmanuel Lutheran Church Friday pushing for voters to support a statewide initiative that would ban plastic bags from supermarkets.
Supporters of the proposition pointed to the inflatable turtle, whose head bobbed before a pile of plastic bags, as one of the reasons for the fight: turtles and other marine wildlife are among those harmed the most for the convenience of a plastic bag, Dan Jacobson, legislative director of Environment California, said.
“Turtles are representative of the plastic bag problem,’ Jacobson said, explaining that a sixth of turtles die after ingesting plastic bags that under water may look like jellyfish.
“They can’t pass plastic,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson was in town Friday as part of a 25-city tour drumming up support for Proposition 67, which would impose a 10 cent charge on plastic bags in grocery stores if passed.
The ban was set to go into effect in 2014, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 270, but more than 800,000 people signed a petition demanding a referendum, sending the issue to voters this November.
Opposition to Proposition 67, backed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has donated more than $6 million. They argue that the ban will weigh down the economy, increase costs to consumers and leave a large carbon footprint since the production of alternative bags would use more water in production and pump more carbon into the air.
“Senator (Alex) Padilla’s bill was never legislation about the environment. It was a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit — all under the guise of environmentalism,” American Progressive Bag Alliance Executive Director Lee Califf said in a statement after Brown signed SB 270 into law.
The group also argues that the 10 cent grocery bag fee represents a government-supported billion-dollar transfer of wealth from working families to grocers.
Proposition supporters, composed largely of environmentalists, have contributed almost $1.6 million to their cause. They say the ban will lead to cleaner oceans and create less landfill waste.
Despite the financial support the repeal of the ban has received, 59 percent of Californians polled in 2014 said they supported the ban, according to a USC Dornsife/LA Times poll. About 34 percent said they would vote to overturn it.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance’s $6 million in contributions, however, still worries Jacobson, who said the group has pledged to donate as much as $50 million to defeating Proposition 67. He figures it will spend about $20 million.
“$20 million buys a lot of confusion,” Jacobson said.
As it stands, the ban could be moot for much of the state. Roughly 150 California cities and counties have instituted plastic bag bans regardless of the state proposition. Kern County and Bakersfield are not among them.
Ann Gallon of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Bakersfield is among those who will be voting in favor of Proposition 67 this November. Symbolically, she said, the repeal would allow Californians to step away from being a “throw-away” culture. In terms of real substance, she said, it will foster good stewardship of the environment and provide more aesthetically pleasing communities free of litter.
Such are the reasons Sierra Club member and equestrian Marion Vargas will be supporting the proposition, too. When plastic bags are littered throughout the trails she rides along the Panorama Vista Preserve, one will occasionally blow her way and spook her horse.
That’s why Vargas will be supporting the repeal, she said, pausing. “Well, besides the ugliness.”