Nearly 20 percent of Californians live in places where local ordinances prohibit stores from handing out single-use plastic bags, but the rest of the state is safe – at least for this year- from bag-grabbers who tried to ban the lightweight grocery sacks in the state legislature.
And Bette Midler is not amused.
‘Plastic bags are a scourge to the planet and everything that tries to live on it,’ the liberal activist actress and singer told the Los Angeles Times after a state Senate vote came up three votes short.
‘Shame on them all for caving.’
A star-studded lobbying effort crashed and burned after state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles) Democrat. told fellow lawmakers that the ban could put up to 500 immigrant women out of work in his district.
‘Iâ€™ve been bombarded by phone calls by folks who live in Malibu and stars who live in Hollywood,’ de Leon told the Times. But his constituents, he said – along with their jobs in plastics factories – had to come first.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Los Angeles County Democrat, said his district could lose 700 jobs, KQED reported.
‘These are hard-working immigrant families who are under-educated, monolingual and are not going to have an opportunity to find another type of employment,’ he said.
Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt joined Midler in lobbying the legislature, along with Tom Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson.
After the ban was rejected, Midler took her acid tongue to Twitter, venting against Republicans that if they were \’looking for younger supporters,’ they should ‘grab ’em before they can read.’
Squaring off against the Hollywood power players was the plastics industry, which argues that reusable cloth and plastic bags are little more than portable petri dishes since consumers almost never wash them.
Industry lobbyists also say the most common reusable bags are made in China, and contain high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. Paper bags, another common alternative, are less environmentally friendly, they argue. And the trend of shoppers walking around stores with their own reusable bags has led to increases in shoplifting.
But activists advocating for the ban have said for years that disposable bags are a threat to wildlife, citing a handful of studies that industry insiders allege showed only a tiny impact on animals in the wild.
And state Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley area who sponsored the bill, said governments have to spend too much money cleaning up plastic bags discarded on beaches, in streets and in the ocean.
Padilla said during a floor debate that bowing to industry pressure is ‘like arguing that we shouldnâ€™t reduce tobacco consumption in the state because of the impact on cigarette manufacturers, or wholesalers and distributors.’
‘Itâ€™s like arguing that we shouldnâ€™t fight the obesity crisis because [of] what it would mean for a company like Coke or Pepsi.’
The proposed law would have banned the single-use bags from grocery stores with more than $2 million in sales each year, and from those with more than 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Sacramento area state Den. Ted Gaines reminded his fellow lawmakers that the plastic bags have another important purpose, at least for pet owners.
‘I see a lot of people using plastic bags throughout my district,’ said Gaines, according to the Sacramento Bee.
‘All you have to do is go to a local park where someone is walking their dog and you can understand how you can actually use the bag twice.’