Talk about spin. Stephen Joseph, counsel for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, was quoted in our July 18 issue saying that the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Manhattan Beach's ban on single-use, carryout plastic bags was a “huge, huge victory” for the plastics industry.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've talked to enough over the years that I know it's rare that you'll ever get one to concede that he or she lost a case.
They're great at finding points where the court agreed with their argument — or at blaming the judge, the jury, or their client, for messing up their own brilliant work.
But Joseph's argument takes the cake.
First, he said, the court ruled that corporate entities, such as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, can continue to bring litigation against bag bans under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Second, he said, the court ruled that while Manhattan Beach does not have to prepare an environmental impact report before banning bags, it said other cities may still be required to prepare the reports.
This sounds like a huge victory all right — a huge victory for lawyers. They can continue to file cases and prepare reports and jump through hoops to battle over the legality of bag bans — all the while knowing that the court favors bans.
Now other communities are lining up to pass their own bans. In California — and possibly on the entire West Coast — it appears that plastic bags' days are numbered.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Chemistry Council had more subdued responses to the Manhattan Beach ruling.
SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux said he was disappointed because it “continues an alarming trend of decisions to ban plastic products that are not based on sound science.”
ACC said its Progressive Bag Affiliates unit will continue to work on solutions to bag litter problems that are environmentally and economically beneficial, such as plastic bag recycling.
Perhaps after a few years, communities will realize that bag bans are wrong. Consumers will continue to buy plastic bags, to carry lunches and clean up after pets. Marine debris won't magically disappear.
In the meantime, bag plants will shut down, and real people — neighbors, family, voters — will lose their jobs.
That doesn't sound like a huge victory to me.