California recently passed a ban on those plastic bags they give you at the grocery store to hold all the food you buy. Obviously, those bags, which are recyclable, reusable and generate 80% less waste than paper, are damaging the environment, so California is now mandating that you bring your own reusable grocery bags to the store with you (or buy them there).
Opponents of the bag ban have begun a referendum push, but they need over 500,000 signatures from residents to qualify for the statewide ballot, and so far, that’s been an uphill challenge, though they maintain the majority of clear-thinking California voters are on their side (though there may not be that many clear-thinking California voters).
Opponents of California’s newly-signed ban on single-use plastic bags have been cleared to begin collecting signatures for a referendum, state elections officials said Friday.
The announcement comes just more than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill phasing out plastic bags used at grocery stores and other retailers.
Proponents of the referendum must collect signatures from 504,760 registered voters to qualify for the statewide ballot, according to the secretary of state.
The statewide ban on plastic bags was expected to be challenged almost as soon as Brown signed it. Last week, an industry group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance said it aimed to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot.
“Our research confirms that the vast majority of California voters are opposed to legislation that bans recyclable plastic bags and allows grocers to charge and keep fees on other bags,” a release from the organization said at the time.
But help for our heroes may be on the horizon – or at least a temporary stay in public opinion. California is in the midst of a record-breaking drout, and water controls have gotten so stringent that it’s even cutting into the Halloween pumpkin industry. What does this have to do with reusable grocery bags? Well, those cotton and plastic bags that you buy from grocery stores that are meant to re-use aren’t meant to be re-used forever. In fact, after just a few uses, those bags contain a terrifying critical mass of bacteria, and have the capacity to make you very, very sick.
Research shows the vast majority of shoppers are like Norton. A 2011 study from scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found only 3% of shoppers with multi-use bags said they regularly washed them. The same study found bacteria in 99% of bags tested; half carried coliform bacteria while 8% carried E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.
“I classify them as pretty dirty things, like the bottom of your shoes,” said Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, a co-author of the study.
And you use these bags to carry things you will probably eat. And a full 97% of shoppers reported that they either never clean their bags, or had no idea they needed to be cleaned in the first place. With California’s burgeoning water crisis, most residential water customers will find their consumption very limited, and this will probably make them even less likely to wash their resuable bags, making the potential for cross-contamination and foodborne illness impressively high.
California might want to rethink it’s bag ban, at least until they get the water running.