California vs. Big Plastic Initiative

November 25, 2014 –  Surfrider Foundation in coalition with environmental, business, consumer, labor groups and citizens joined the California vs. Big Plastic, a campaign to fight efforts by out-of-state plastic bag companies to repeal the recent ban on single-use plastic bags (Senate Bill 270) that the Governor signed in September. The ban, which is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2015, will reduce litter and pollution in our neighborhoods, waterways, beaches, and oceans.

The plastic bag industry has contracted with the American Progressive Bag Alliance to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot to repeal SB 270. The deadline for them to collect 504,760 signatures for the referendum and qualify for the ballot is Dec. 29, 2014.

The CA. vs. Big Plastic coalition also worked with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) to conduct a survey of California voters to assess their opinions about the new law. Scroll down to review key findings from the study and additional supportive talking points about the issues and facts you can use in your communications to help us support the campaign.

Recent Study and Key Findings

Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) recently completed a telephone survey of 600 California voters to assess their opinions about California’s recently adopted law prohibiting grocery stores, drugstores and other retail stores that sell food from providing plastic bags, starting in July 2015.[i]  In addition to assessing awareness of the ban and whether voters support or oppose it, survey respondents were also asked to react to a potential referendum on the law. The data shows that California voters are both very familiar with the ban (86 percent had heard something about it) and also strongly supportive of it – 64 percent indicate that they support it.  Furthermore, three in five (60%) indicated they would vote “yes” on a referendum reaffirming the plastic bag ban – a solid majority that both grows and becomes more committed after voters hear an exchange of pro and con arguments.

Among the key specific findings of the survey are the following:

  •  The vast majority of California voters are familiar with its recently passed plastic bag ban. At least 86 percent of voters have heard “a little” about the ban, including 40 percent who have heard a “great deal.”  Only a little more than one in ten (13%) have heard nothing.  Awareness cuts across all major subgroups of the electorate.
  • Voters strongly support California’s plastic bag ban. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of voters support the ban, including 45 percent who “strongly” support it, while only one-third (33%) oppose the ban.
  • This support is broad-based, with majority support from both men and women; voters of all ages; voters of all educational backgrounds; voters of all major ethnic groups; voters from all regions of the state; voters of all income groups; Democrats, independents and Republican women; and voters both involved with environmental organizations and those who are not.
  •  Notably, support for the ban was equally broad regardless of how much voters knew about it.  The ban is supported by 62 percent of those who have heard a “great deal,” 66 percent of those who have heard “a little,” and 65 percent of those unfamiliar with the ban
  • Most voters feel California’s plastic bag ban will have little to no impact on their daily lives. When asked about how the ban would impact them personally, survey respondents overwhelming opined that the impact would be minimal.  Nearly half (45%) thought the ban would “not really be a problem at all” for them personally, while another 29 percent thought it would be a “minor
  • Three in five voters would vote “yes” on a referendum reaffirming California’s plastic bag ban. Survey respondents were presented with hypothetical ballot language (based on the official petition language, and shown below) for a referendum on California’s plastic bag ban.  60 percent indicated they would vote “yes” to keep the ban in place, with 35 percent indicating they would vote “no” to effectively repeal the law – percentages very close to voters’ conceptual support or opposition to the ban. REFERENDUM TO OVERTURN BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAGS.    A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, a law previously approved by the Legislature and Governor, prohibiting grocery and certain other stores from providing single-use plastic bags but permitting sale of reusable and recycled-paper bags.  Fiscal Impact:  Approving the referendum would reduce state and local government litter-cleanup expenditures in an unknown amount.  Rejecting the referendum would have no fiscal impact on state and local governments.

Supportive Talking Points The Issues

  • This year, California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic carry out grocery bags. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the groundbreaking law that had support from a vast coalition of supporters including Surfrider, local governments, business groups, workers unions, retailers, environmental organizations and more
  • Big bag manufactures are pouring millions of dollars into the effort to undo what the Governor and Legislature have just accomplished to reduce the plastic bags littering our neighborhoods, clogging our waterways and polluting our beaches and oceans and harm wildlife.
  • Five companies – four of which are from out of state – are behind the effort through the plastic industry’s astroturf trade group, the misnamed “American Progressive Bag Alliance.” Led by ringleader South Carolina based Hilex Poly – which does not have any locations nor employ anybody in California – this group comprises companies from Texas, New York, New Jersey, Kansas, Mississippi and even Taiwan. View their financial contributions to the referendum campaign at the California Secretary of State’s Website.
  • More than one-third of Californians now live in a community with no single-use plastic grocery bags. In California, 128 cities and counties have joined those across the world banning plastic shopping bags, reducing litter and ushering in a new culture of reusable carryout bags.

The Facts (from: Beachapedia)

  •  Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.
  • Impacts of marine debris have been reported for 663 species. Over half of these reports documented entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris. Over 80% of the impacts were associated with plastic debris.
  • Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources.
  • Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.
  • Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water.
  • It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.
  • Those 100 billion plastic bags, if tied together, would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times!
  • Recent studies estimate that fish off the West Coast ingest over 12,000 tons of plastic a year.
  • Cleanup of plastic bags is costly. For example:
  • California cities and counties spend an estimated $428 million annually to clean up litter and prevent marine pollution. Plastics bags contribute $34 million to $107 million to these costs, based on litter data in San Jose and LA County.
  • California spends $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $500 million annually in litter cleanup.

Here’s a video created by California vs. Big Plastic:  Threatening wildlife.

Coalition Action Alert Surfrider and our coalition are asking for supporters join the fight against big plastic by signing our action alert at

Once you sign the alert, please share with your friends and colleagues and on your social platforms.


Judge OKs Marin’s Plastic Bag Ban

On September 27th Marin Superior Court Judge, Lynn Duryee, rejected assertions that Marin’s bag ban violated environmental rules and instead embraced the ban as a reasonable decision by a local government, and thus ruled that Marin officials do not have to prepare an environmental impact report. Marin Supervisors in January – in a move championed by the late Charles McGlashan – unanimously approved a measure that beginning January 2012 will ban plastic bags at checkout stands and impose a five cent fee on paper bags at retail markets in the county’s unincorporated areas. Similar to the ban Fairfax has already enacted. The plastics industry under the front of  “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” challenged Marin’s law in court claiming it required an environmental impact report. Plastic Bag Attorney Stephen Joseph vowed to take this case to the state Court of Appeals. As of now, Marin’s plastic bag ban is on track to begin January 1, 2012. Rise Above Plastics Campaign (PDF)

There is a section of the Pacific Ocean twice the size of the continental United States called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Within it, 100 million tons of plastic swirl in a vortex of currents. There is so much plastic in the water that it outnumbers zooplankton by six to one! This plastic ends up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals. In fact, one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die globally each year due to ingestion of or entanglement in plastics You can make a difference for our world’s oceans, waves and beaches — pledge to rise above plastics today. For more information go to: Find a location to drop off your waste polystyrene packaging foam (aka EPS foam or “styrofoam”). NORTHERN CALIFORNIA San Francisco Bay Area: