By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Paper or plastic may soon become phrase of the past
Placeholder Image
I am a firm believer in using reusable tote bags at the grocery store.

I bought four of them just over two years ago at the market where I shop. Each time I use them, they credit me 5 cents apiece. So far on an original expenditure of $7.45 I've netted just over $14.

I bought the tote bags because I thought it was the right thing to do. And just like a lot of green things you can do it can save you green.

Not only that, but it is a heck of a lot easier to carry groceries. Packed right, you don't have to worry about things falling out. Having said that, there are only about two courtesy clerks I'll allow to pack my bags. Part of it has to do with bruising fruit - which is a big deal when that's close to $20 of your grocery bill - by tossing it willy-nilly into bags. The other reason is they pack them like they pack plastic. The tote bags are also stronger which means even packed to the gills I don't have to worry about them breaking.

More often than not unless I buy a lot of small items, I will refuse bags at places like Orchard Supply Hardware and Kohl's.

You would think that I'd be jumping with joy about Assemblywoman Julia Brownley's proposal to make California the first state to ban plastic and most paper bags from grocery, convenience and other stores. I'm not.

The Santa Monica Democrat's Assembly Bill 1998 would require those shoppers who don't bring their own tote bags to a store to either buy a reusable bag or purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material for a minimum of 5 cents.

If the measure passes it will become law on Jan. 1, 2012. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated he supports the bill.

The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Brownley as being motivated by a desire to "ban all of the single-use bags that have been polluting our oceans and waterways and threatening marine life."

There is little doubt that many of the 19 billion plastic bags Californians use every year do not get recycled. Brownley referenced an estimate that it costs $25 million a year to collect and bury plastic bags.

One can't dispute Brownley's targeted goal which is reducing potential danger to wildlife and reducing burial costs for plastic bags that aren't recycled. The real question though is where does the state stop?

When I used to take my grandkids to McDonald's or Taco Bell and we used a drive-thru any time they asked for catsup or hot sauce we'd almost always get not one or two extra packets but eight to 10. By the time we realized it, we were away from the drive-thru window. That meant about seven extra condiment packages would go into the garbage. You could make the same argument about plastic condiment containers as plastic bags. Is the state going to make it illegal to disperse them in that manner?

Personally, I believe it makes perfect sense to shut down all drive-thru windows due to the air pollution created by millions of idling cars each day. I simply don't use them but then again I don't go to fast food places any more. Still I'd argue against anyone proposing legislation to stop the use of drive-thru windows as it would be another example of the state micromanaging our lives down to minute details.

People have an obligation to minimize their environmental foot print - carbon or otherwise - on California.

Laws such as the one proposed by Brownley are based on the assumption people can't make intelligent and responsible decisions on their own to modify their daily behavior.

It is why we have a bloated state budget and a bureaucracy that has expanded so much to regulate our lives that we have redundancy in many agencies.

Sacramento can't get its house in order but they are more than willing to tell you how your household is going to be run.

Outlawing plastic bags in grocery stores won't solve the problem with marine pollution but it will be lauded as a start. And that's what should scare you. It's a start. This is just another step down the path of having Sacramento - that can't even live within it means - dictate exactly how you go through your daily life.

The phrase "plastic or paper" - or if you prefer tote bags - should be a question settled between you and the grocery store you patronize not by 120 career politicians in Sacramento.