Industry challenges plastic bag ban

January 28, 2008 1:04:05 PM PST
There is a new twist in the battle over plastic bags in Oakland. The plastic industry is trying to convince city leaders that banning the bags will actually hurt the environment. However, eco-activists who just wrapped up an anti-plastic bag rally in Oakland obviously disagree.

With bans on plastic bags sweeping the Bay Area and the nation, plastic bag makers are challenging the Oakland ordinance in court, saying plastic is better for the environment than paper.

Supporters of the Oakland ordinance say their ban is based on the one already in place in San Francisco and would ban non biodegradable carry out plastic bags.

It seems the plastic bag makers are going after Oakland because it's a city with fewer resources to wage a legal battle. If the industry can win here, other communities will think twice. Communities such as Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Fairfax are all considering plastic bag bans.

Ban supporters say plastic bags just don't get recycled.

"It's clear that the market for recycling plastic bags is small. Less than five percent of the plastic bags in the city don't get recycled. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of plastic bags don't get recycled," says Jean Quan, Oakland City Council.

The plastic bag industry says paper bags are worse, they take more energy to make and they weigh more, meaning they take more energy to transport and they take more space in landfills. Compostable bags wont be available in the foreseeable future, so there is not going to be any alternative to the plastic bags. The only other alternative is permanent cloth bags, which there is no evidence yet of mass appeal.

One plastic bag ban that won't be challenged is the one announced recently by Whole Foods Market and is set to take effect by Earth Day.

On Tuesday, both sides go to court in Alameda County Superior Court. The plastic bag makers want this ordinance stopped because the council did not consider potential environmental impacts.The city says it is not necessary, since banning plastic bags improves the environment.