At a recent joint Government Relations Committee (GRC) and Industrial Commercial Economic Development (ICED) meeting, we reviewed (for the second time) both sides of the plastic bag ban issue. As a point of clarification, the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce has had a long standing position of opposition to the banning of plastic bags. We were urged to revisit our position once again and did take a hard look at both sides of the issue on September 10.
As would be expected, both sides presented strong evidence for us to support their respective position. The pro plastic ban speaker presented data that showed plastic bags represent 10% of the pollution that we find in our creeks, streams and oceans. It was also pointed out that we are one of the few remaining cities in Santa Clara County still allowing the use of single carryout plastic bags. Lastly, cities that have the bag ban in place have seen high percentages of reduced bag litter in their storm drain system.
Of course, the opposition to the bag ban supplied data that shows that less than .5% of the waste stream and less than 1% of the litter stream consists of plastic bags. We were also reminded that plastic bags are 100% recyclable, reusable and made from natural gas, not oil, in the United States. Plastic bags are also reused by 9 out of 10 people. And most importantly, the plastic bag industry supports more than 1,900 jobs in California.
The GRC & ICED members voiced concerns about the additional costs passed onto consumers when they have to pay for their bags and to business owners for the costs of stocking and maintaining reusable bags. There was a strong belief that educating the public about plastic bag recycling options would be a better alternative. The overriding sentiment was solutions to issues such as this should not be punitive.
After thoroughly reviewing both sides of this issue, the GRC voted to recommend to the Chamber Board of Directors that we continue to oppose a single use plastic bag ban. This recommendation was approved by the board of directors at their September 24 meeting.
The Santa Clara City Council will be considering a plastic bag ban very soon as it is one of the priority goals set for completion in March 2014. Rest assured, the Chamber will be engaged in this process advocating for the business community.