by Julian Morris, Lance Christensen
Reason Foundation
June 18, 2014
Policy Brief
Many California cities have passed ordinances banning the distribution of certain plastic grocery bags and mandating fees for paper bags. The premise of these laws is to benefit the environment and reduce municipal costs. In practice, the opposite is more likely to arise. While the impact of the legislation will ultimately depend on consumer response, available evidence suggests that it will do nothing to protect the environment; it will instead waste resources and cost Californian consumers billions of dollars. Aside from having no impact on litter or the amount of plastic in the ocean, the legislation will likely increase the use of oil and other non-renewable energy resources, including coal and natural gas. It will result in five-fold or greater increase in the shopping bag-related use of water. Given the damage it does and its lack of effectiveness, the law is not worth the $1 billion in direct and indirect costs that it will likely impose on California consumers.

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