Opponents of a proposed plastic bag ban gathered Wednesday to call on the San Diego City Council to abandon the plan to remove plastic bags from local stores.
Community leaders, including Mark Arabo, president of the Neighborhood Market Association, held a press conference in front of Rainbow Market on Federal Boulevard in which they called the proposed ban a “tax scam” that will negatively impact working-class San Diegans.
“This is a terrible plan. It’s terrible because the solution is worse than the so-called problem,” said Arabo. “It’s a classic case of politicians attempting to do something for the environment, in part to appease some environmental groups, without seeing the bigger picture.”
The proposed ban would remove plastic bags from stores while imposing a paper bag tax on customers. Shoppers would be charged 10 cents for each paper bag they might need at a store.
“This ban will have reaching ramifications. It’ll cost taxpayers – mothers, fathers and brothers – more money when they go shopping for groceries,” said Arabo.
Though the ban is designed to reduce waste and help the environment, Arabo argued that plastic bags only make up one-third of one percent of the waste stream.
On the other end of the plastic bag ban debate, Sherri Lightner, San Diego City Council President Pro Tem, District 1, supports the proposed ban.
According to Lightner, the ordinance would help reduce the approximately 123,000 tons of plastic bags that Californians throw out each year. She said that according to a report by the City’s Environmental Services Department, 500 million single-use plastic bags are distributed annually in San Diego, but only 3 percent of those bags are recycled while the rest end up as trash polluting local neighborhoods.
Lightner said the bag ban would save the city $160,000 per year in landfill costs and would prevent plastic bags from winding up in the ocean, streets, parks and storm drains.
But, again, not everyone agrees with the plan.
George D. McKinney, founding pastor of the St. Stephen’s Ministries, stood alongside Arabo Wednesday and also argued against it, saying the paper bag tax that comes with the ban is unfair to local, working-class residents.
“In essence, it’s a tax – a multi-million-dollar tax a year – on San Diegans,” said McKinney. “And with the cost of living on the rise, I can tell you the last thing we need today from government is something that will make life even more difficult for people, especially working families.”
The plastic bag ban proposal was passed by the City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee back in October. The ban is currently under economic review.
It could be up to one year before the proposal is back in the hands of the San Diego City Council for a final decision.