retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Sacramento Bee reports on how California residents will vote next month on a referendum that will determine whether the state will outlaw "single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail establishments." The story notes that "the plastic bag industry, calling itself the American Progressive Bag Alliance, has raised $6.1 million to fight the statewide ban in California, one of several battlefronts in a war pitting environmentalists against plastic manufacturers across the country."

The Bee writes that "grocers argue that proceeds from bag sales often aren’t enough to cover the cost of supplying the bags. The fee won’t actually help the environment because it will shrink over time as people bring their own bags to the store, they say. Proponents also fear that voters will confuse the two plastic bag measures on the ballot.

"A 'yes' vote on Proposition 65 directs the bag money away from grocers to an environmental fund, while a 'yes' vote on Proposition 67 upholds the state bag ban. A University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll from late 2014 found that 6 in 10 registered voters intended to uphold the bag ban at the time."

In a related story, the Chicago Sun Times reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "plans to slap a 7-cent tax on each paper and plastic bag handed out at stores — both to give consumers an incentive to bring reusable bags, and to stop a ploy by major retailers to get around the city’s partial ban ... that exempts mom-and-pop retailers, restaurants and non-franchise independent stores with less than 10,000 square feet of space." The partial ban also had a loophole that allowed retailers to hand out a "thicker plastic bag capable of holding up to 22 pounds and being reused 125 times."

The Sun Times writes that "a mayoral confidante, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that the bag tax would be part of the revenue package in the 2017 budget Emanuel will introduce to the City Council on Tuesday."
KC's View:
I fear that the California referendum will end up being unduly influenced by a plastic bag industry that is defending its own revenue stream, and that the Chicago proposal is more about raising much-needed revenue for a city that needs it. In neither case, I'm afraid, will the most important thing be the question of whether banning such bags will actually be objectively good for the environment and good public policy.

But then again, these days I'm feeling pretty dispirited about the future of good public policy.