On July 1, the city of Pasadena joined a growing roster of California municipalities that have outlawed plastic bags. Long Beach, San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles County enacted their own bans.
Produce packaging manufacturers and grower-shippers say the war on plastic will only intensify.
“As a West Coast-based company, we’re becoming kind of in the middle of a lot of these initiatives going on in California, Washington and Oregon, and mostly in California,” said Kellee Harris, spokeswoman for Canby, Ore.-based bag manufacturer Package Containers Inc.
The company already is getting calls that the Seattle-Tacoma area is moving away from plastic bags, Harris said.
So far, the bans haven’t had much of a direct effect on the produce industry, but that could change, Harris said.
PCI makes small, paper tote bags primarily for bulk produce, Harris said.
“For right now, it’s mainly for end-of-counter, at least in the grocery segment,” Harris said.
She also said it could be a starting point that makes its way around the whole store.
“If they’re mandating that, the next step is what other areas will be looked at, because other plastics are used in other areas of the store,” she said.
Don Wallace, director of produce with International Paper, based in Memphis, Tenn., said his company is closely following the trends.
“We believe paper bags provide a more environmentally friendly alternative,” he said.
Twenty years ago, the concern was focused on use of paper and the potential damage to forested land. Wallace said paper companies ensure that everything harvested is replaced.
“The paper industry is positioned to provide an alternative that naturally decomposes and already has a recovery rate greater than 60%,” he said.
There are worries that bans that now focus on plastic eventually will shift to paper, as well, Wallace said.
“We are opposed to any bans that include paper bags, and we oppose a fee structure on paper that would limit paper bag use,” he said.