With the proposed assembly bill, AB1998, California is on the verge of a total ban on disposable plastic grocery bags, and a fee on paper bags. If passed, the ban wouldn’t kick in until July, 2011, but Walmart has been doing some test runs on its own.
As part of its Plastic Bag Initiative, Walmart tested out a total ban on plastic bags at three California stores last January. The stores were picked to participate based on earlier tests among customers that suggested a favorable demographic. In the tests, all plastic bags were completely banned, and two types of reusable bags were offered for sale (small and large) at 15 cents and 50 cents each. The bright blue bags are made of a washable polypropylene material and are said to last about 75 uses each.
If you read the comments on The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the experiment, you might think the world was coming to an end — the most hilarious were a string of comments predicting a massive salmonella outbreak. But regardless of the barrage of negativity and proclamations of the dawn of socialism, KCRA’s informal survey showed a majority of shoppers expressing more positive sentiments about a bag ban.
If AB1998 is passed some vocal shoppers may kick and scream, but the measure might actually end up saving money for all involved in the long run. Grocers will no longer have to supply bags at their own expense, and shoppers will have some one-time expenses – though hopefully for larger and higher quality bags than the little blue ones at Walmart, which, at least for the test run in January, were actually oil-based. Whether the environment benefits may also depend on the quality and materials of whatever bags wind up in the hands of consumers.