Workers of the California plastic bag industry joined community leaders to urge legislators to vote no on SB 270. The bill, which would ban plastic bags in grocery stores, was introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) last year.
The opposing group fears the loss of some 2,000 California jobs in the industry. Navy veteran Rachied Yuille is a mechanic at Crown Poly, a plastic bag maker out of southern California. He said his future will be uncertain if the bill passes.
“I have been taught to adapt and overcome, but its not as easy as it used to be,” Yuille said.
However, those that support SB 270 said ridding free, one-time-use plastic bags would help the environment, and encourage the public to make the switch to buying thicker, reusable ones.
“The standard in the bill of 2.5 mills [in thickness] are designed to make sure companies don’t try to scam consumers to sell the same old crappy one-time plastic bags, and pretend they are reusable bags,” Mark Murray, Executive director of Californians Against Waste, said.
Yuille fired back, saying everyone he knows uses the so-called “one-time plastic bags” for a variety of things, such as trash can liners.
“They keep talking about one use bag, but I haven’t seen a plastic bag that is a one-use type bag. So what is he talking about?” Yuille said.
Proponents said the legislation has been modeled after local laws that have already passed in 114 California cities and counties.
“In total, the industry has spent $3 million opposing legislation over the last 6 years, they fought it in court, and lost every single time,” Murray said. “So they’re kind of in desperation mode right now.”
Gary Halvorsen, manager at Crown Poly fired back.
“The bill has nothing to do with the environment,” Halvorsen said. “It’s a cash grab by the grocery share holders and the whole thing is being helped along by Senator Padilla.”
Industry workers said profits from the thicker bags will only benefit grocers. So the passage of SB 270 would mean unemployment.
“I have a good job, a living wage job, and I have good benefits, and I hate to see something stupid like SB 270 cause me to lose my job,” Yuille said.
But proponents said it will never come down to that.
“They make dry cleaning bags, and a variety of other plastic bags, and I believe those good employees at Crown Poly will continue to make other products, but they won’t be making plastic grocery bags,” Murray said.