State body proposes plastic bag fees, statewide polystyrene ban
The California Ocean Protection Council, a state body, has proposed banning polystyrene take-out containers and establishing plastic bag use fees as ways to reduce ocean litter. The proposal will require legislation in order to be enacted. Several local cities have already adopted polystyrene take-out bans.
The Council identified three primary approaches that the State should take: (1) establish a “take-back” program that would require manufacturers to take back used packaging and dispose of it properly; (2) institute a statewide fee on single-use plastic grocery bags and a prohibition on polystyrene food containers; and (3) impose user fees on other commonly-littered packaging items.
China, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and several other countries recently banned plastic grocery bags. In 2002, Ireland imposed a tax on the distribution of plastic grocery bags that resulted in a 95% drop in plastic bag use.
According to the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, 60–80% of the world’s ocean litter is made up of plastic. In some areas, 90–95% of the marine debris is plastic. State and local governments spend millions of dollars every year on ocean litter cleanup. In fiscal year 2006, Caltrans spent $55 million to remove litter and debris from roadsides and highways. Uncollected, most of this will ultimately drain into the ocean. Marine debris also negatively impacts California’s $46 billion tourism-based ocean-dependent economy. Despite an ongoing effort for decades to reduce ocean litter, the proliferation of plastic debris has increased exponentially.
The Ocean Protection Council was established in 2004 pursuant to the requirements of the California Ocean Protection Act. Its role is to integrate and coordinate State laws and institutions responsible for protecting and conserving ocean resources.