14 July, 2011

COARE celebrates the decision of the California State Supreme Court to uphold an ordinance adopted by the Manhattan Beach City Council nearly three years ago to ban the use of plastic carryout bags within the City.

Annually, U.S. consumers use 100 billion plastic bags, all of which are derived from fossil fuels. In California alone, consumers use more than 19 billion plastic grocery and merchandise bags each year. In an attempt to curb that behavior, the California State Legislature last year considered Assembly Bill 1998 (Brownley), which sought to ban single-use plastic bags throughout the state. Despite clear support in the State Assembly and by the Governor's office, the California State Senate failed to pass the bill when it came to a vote on August 31st last year.

Since then, many cities, counties, and municipalities throughout California have begun considering their own bag bans. On 15 July 2008, the City of Manhattan Beach approved an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags, but that ordinance was challenged by powerful plastic interests.

The "Save the Plastic Bag Coalition", a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors, sued the City of Manhattan Beach on the grounds of public interest in environmental quality. Among their claims were that banning plastic bags would drive an increase in paper bag consumption, arguing that these are more detrimental to the environment than their plastic counterparts.

Both the Trial Court and the Court of Appeals found that the City should have considered these issues in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California's broadest environmental law.

However, in the opinion released today, the California State Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts, and found that the City acted appropriately. In the Court's unanimous opinion, Justice Carol Corrigan wrote, "Substantial evidence and common sense support the city's determination that its ordinance [to ban plastic bags] would have no significant environmental effect."

"This is a tremendous decision, and signals that California is really ready to make a difference and won't be swayed by smoke and mirror attempts to avoid the obvious. This vote leads the way for similar efforts throughout the State, and tells the world that we've had enough plastic bags," said Christopher Chin, COARE's Executive Director. "Consumers need to move away from the single-use and disposable mentality", continued Chin.

As part of the Clean Seas Coalition, COARE has worked with a number of organizations to support evolving legislation such as AB1998, the Los Angeles County bag ban, the San José ban, the County of Santa Clara, and many others. Through its "Enough with the plastic already!" campaign, COARE seeks to reduce the amount of oceanbound waste by helping people become more aware of how their habits affect the world around them. COARE raises public awareness of some very commonly overlooked sources of trash, and encourages people everywhere to examine their choices.

Christopher Chin
+1 510-495-7875