May 2008

Oakland, California required to examine adverse impact of banning plastic bags

The Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council applauded the decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch invalidating the recently passed Oakland plastic bag ban.

The Alameda County Court held in a ruling that the ban violates the California Environmental Quality Act because the City of Oakland failed to review the law’s adverse environmental impacts. The Court’s decision will become final on April 27, 2008 and will require the City to rescind the plastic bag ban.

After finding that Oakland failed to consider evidence in the record of the plastic bag ban’s potentially significant adverse effects, the Court held that, “It is because of that evidence in the record and the unanimity of the uncertainty whether paper bags are less (or more) environmentally friendly than plastic bags that the City cannot assert that there is ‘no possibility’ of any significant environmental effect caused by the ban.”

“Like many who have been waiting for this decision, we are pleased with the judge’s ruling,” said Keith Christman, senior director of ACC’s Plastics Division. “Banning plastic bags would dramatically increase energy use, double greenhouse gas emissions and increase waste. Recycling plastic bags is the right approach and makes plastic bags the environmentally responsible choice.”

The suit presented strong evidence that the City’s ban would actually result in adverse environmental impacts and would impede plastic bag recycling.

After the decision becomes final, Oakland can decide to address plastic bags through the State’s recently enacted recycling program, or it can decide to conduct a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of the ban.

“We certainly encourage the City to help City residents improve the recycling of plastic bags consistent with AB 2449, California’s state-wide recycling program,” said Christman. “Plastics are a valuable resource — too valuable to waste and we believe effective implementation of the State’s recycling program is the best and fastest way to steward environmental resources and reduce litter by recycling these bags.”