Repeat Performance:Pete Grande at Command Packaging’s facility in Vernon.

Repeat Performance:Pete Grande at Command Packaging’s facility in Vernon. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

While most plastic bag manufacturers in California and around the nation are pouring millions of dollars into defeating a ban on single-use plastic bags on the statewide November ballot, a Vernon plastic bag maker is banking on the measure’s passage.

Command Packaging has spent millions of dollars on technology that allows it to produce plastic bags that meet the strict requirements the law would set up, making it one of two companies statewide to have done so. And if voters approve Proposition 67 next month, the company stands ready to market its bags to grocery chains.

Getting Handle on State Measures

California voters in November will face two measures focused on a 2014 state law banning single-use carry-out plastic bags at grocery stores. Plastic bag manufacturers placed both

measures on the ballot.

PROPOSITION 67

Summary: Referendum contains the text of SB 270, a law signed in October 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown that bans single-use carry-out plastic bags at grocery stores. “Yes” vote upholds the law; “no” kills the law. After failing to block passage of that law, plastic bag manufacturers gathered and submitted signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, with the intention of campaigning against it.

What supporters say: In this case, supporters are the supporters of the original law, including environmental groups such as Californians Against Waste, the state’s major grocery chains, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. They say flimsy single-use plastic bags strangle or otherwise harm wildlife, litter communities, pollute the ocean, and raise cleanup costs.

What opponents say: Opponents of the measure are the ones who placed it on the ballot. They are chiefly the nation’s major plastic bag manufacturers, led by Hilex Poly Co. of Hartsville, S.C. They say the law is a de facto tax on consumers, forcing them to pay at least 10 cents for each permissible carry-out bag supplied by the store and that none of that money will go toward cleaning up the environment.

Fundraising (through Sept. 30):

Supporters: $1.76 million. Major donors: Albertson’s; Ralphs/Food 4 Less; California Grocers Association; Steyer

Opponents: $6.1 million (for both this measure and Proposition 65). Major donors: Hilex Poly; Superbag Corp.; Formosa Plastics Corp.; Advanced Polybag Inc.

PROPOSITION 65

Summary: Measure addresses the minimum 10-cent fee SB 270 requires grocery stores to collect for all carryout bags (paper bags, thicker ban-compliant plastic bags, and cloth bags) that they provide at checkout. SB 270 allows grocers to keep these fees, but this measure would require grocery operators to place the money in a state fund operated by the Wildlife Conservation Board for environmental mitigation projects. It was placed on the ballot by plastic bag manufacturers; the strategy is seen by some as an attempt to peel off grocery store support for the plastic bag ban.

What supporters say: Plastic bag makers and their allies say SB 270’s bag fee paid at checkout represents a tax on consumers that enriches the pockets of grocery store operators. Measure would redirect that money toward environmental programs.

What opponents say: Though they don’t officially oppose this measure, bag-ban proponents say it is a ploy by plastic bag manufacturers to divert voter attention from the real issue, Proposition 67. Manufacturers, opponents say, want to confuse voters enough so they are more likely to vote against Proposition 67.

Fundraising (Through Sept. 30):

Supporters: $6.1 million (for both this measure and Proposition 67). Major donors: Hilex Poly; Superbag; Formosa Plastics; Advanced Polybag.

Opponents: No official campaign committee specifically for this measure.

– Howard Fine

Sources: California Secretary of State; Ballotpedia.

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