Like a kid who just poked a hornet's nest with a stick, the plastics industry is plagued by bag-ban proposals.
The U.S. plastics industry can point to victories chiefly in Seattle, where voters rejected a 20-cent tax on bags in 2009, and in California, where the state Legislature declined to approve a bag ban in 2010.
But those were just a couple of the high-profile, most-expensive battles. Grass-roots environmental groups continue to introduce new ban proposals. I see a half a dozen proposals pop up every week.
And when I say expensive, I mean it.
According to the latest figures from the California secretary of state's office, the plastics industry spent some $2 million on lobbying in California in the three months between July 1 and Sept. 30 as the Legislature was considering the bag-ban bill.
More than half that $2 million total came from Hartsville, S.C.-based bag manufacturer Hilex Poly Co. LLC.
A few weeks ago I wrote that the plastics industry's victory in California is not going to stop the swelling number of ban proposals. Rather, it is going to drive the issue down to the local level, where lobbyists will be forced to deal with county and city council members.
As a result, the November midterm elections didn't offer much hope for a respite from these bans. Perhaps they will make a difference on the state level, where a conservative wave brought new Republican legislators into many capitals.
But at this point the battle is, for the most part, more local than that.
Remember, President Obama has not been leading the charge against plastic bags. Nor have the biggest, best-known environmental organizations, which have kept their focus on global warming.
All along, this battle has been driven by grass-roots environmental groups, independent filmmakers even high school students.
Last week I noted in The Plastics Blog that the Algalita Marine Research Foundation an organization known for its research on plastic marine debris is planning a summit meeting for high school students next year, aimed specifically at plastic litter.
Right now the group is asking students to come up with solutions to plastic waste problems in their towns. About 100 students will be selected to attend the Plastics Are Forever International Youth Summit, where they'll get training on how to become experts on reducing plastic in their communities.
When those students are trained and sent back to their communities, you can expect to see even more grass-roots campaigns pop up.