The city of Santa Cruz, California has recently banned single-use plastic bags. The ban includes both compostable and traditional bags. The reason for the ban is a financial one for the city which currently spends over $334 million on plastic bag-related costs, with a recycling rate of only 5%.
The Santa Cruz decision brings the number of plastic bag bans nationwide to 79, with 60% of the banning municipalities in California. Bans against plastic bags have been enacted in large cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, TX , Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. Houston, TX and Los Angeles are also considering a bag ban proposals. Cities such as Washington, D.C. levies fees on plastic bags when distributed.
The Santa Cruz Recovery Station currently has five employees assigned to removing plastic bags from different recycling lines and the cost is greater than the expected sale price of recycled plastic film. Additionally, there is the growing concern of plastic bags polluting the marine area and endangering wildlife and fishing interests.
The Santa Cruz ban applies to all retail businesses with the exception of restaurants. Retailers are also required to charge ten cents for each paper bag, which then can then use to offset the cost of switching from plastic to paper. Exempt from the ban are plastic bags used for meat, fish, wet items, and produce as well as pharmacy items and greeting cards.
WasteCare Wants You to Remember: Municipalities are making decisions about plastic bag bans based on the percentage of items recycled, the cost of processing, and the expect return on selling recycled materials. If your community isn’t doing all it can to recycle, you may find yourself without!