The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition is suing Marin County in California to prevent enforcement of a ban on distributing plastic carryout bags and a mandatory 5-cent fee that shoppers must pay for paper bags.
The ban affects retailers in unincorporated areas of the county, effective Jan. 1, 2012. The coalition filed suit Feb. 24 in the Superior Court of California for the County of Marin.
The group's petition asks the court to set aside the law because the county failed to conduct an environmental impact review, as required by the California Environmental Air Quality Act. The group also seeks a preliminary injunction to bar the Marin County Board of Supervisors from implementing and enforcing the law while the lawsuit is heard.
When Marin County passed the ban Jan. 25, the coalition had told the county it would sue, as it did in Manhattan Beach, Calif., where a planned ban, passed in July 2008, is still on hold pending resolution by the state Supreme Court, with a decision expected sometime in the first six months of 2011.
In its lawsuit against Marin County, the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition called the county guilty of spreading environmental myths and misinformation about plastic bags.
The coalition cited three specific examples two of them contained in a Dec. 7, 2010, letter from the Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures to the board.
In that letter, the department said plastic bags are responsible for the death of a million sea birds and 100,000 mammals worldwide annually and that plastic bags have no recycling markets both of which are untrue, said the coalition, which provided evidence to the court to support its claim.
In addition, the coalition pointed to the Marin County Bring Your Own Bag leaflet about plastic bags, which states that certain chemicals found in plastic bags (especially BPA, phthalates, PFOA, PFOs, polystyrene, and additives such as antimony, cadmium and lead) are associated with a who's who of modern disorders including asthma, cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature puberty and reproductive failure.
But the reality, said the coalition, is that plastic bags do not contain any of those chemicals.
The coalition further pointed out that the Marin County ordinance states that the use of single-use paper bags result in greater greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric acidification, water consumption and ozone production than single-use plastic bags.
It also said three other government jurisdictions that conducted environmental impact reviews and banned plastic bags Los Angeles County, San Jose and Santa Monica have all mandated that stores charge at least 10 cents for paper bags they distribute once their plastic bag bans go into effect.
Four communities already have passed plastic bag bans this year, three in California and one in Texas, bringing the number of U.S. bans to 19. The most recent: Calabasas, Calif., on Feb. 1, and Santa Monica and Marin County in California on Jan. 25.
In addition, the District of Columbia has a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper carryout bags, and Hawaii County is set to vote on a plastic bag ban March 2.
Members of the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, formed in 2008, include plastic bag manufacturers and distributors such as Crown Poly Inc., Elkay Plastics Co. Inc. and Grand Packaging Inc., which does business as Command Packaging.