The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

California’s “Plastic Bag Ban” INCREASED Plastic Waste

Mar 11, 2024

In 2014, the California legislature passed a law supposedly banning “single-use plastic bags” at grocery stores. Stores began to SELL thicker plastic bags to customers instead. Paying for the bags, politicians said, would encourage customers to use the bags multiple times.

A recent study by the consumer advocacy group CALPIRG, however, found that the weight of discarded plastic bags per person in California was nearly 50% higher in 2022 than it was in 2014.

In other words, that law made plastic pollution even worse. But while plastic waste has been filling landfills and polluting oceans more than ever, big grocery chains have been handsomely profiting from the 10 cents they charge for a bag, which they buy for 5 cents.

Most of the plastic used in grocery bags is not recycled, either. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that in 2018, less than 9% of all plastics used in the U.S. were recycled. (Even that number was false, because it included millions of tons of plastic waste exported to China that year.)

And why is more than 90% of the plastic we use not recycled? Because it’s not profitable to recycle it. In fact, in the capitalist world we live in, “recyclable” is defined as: whatever can be broken down into materials that CAN BE SOLD. And for anything to be sold, of course, the seller must make a profit!

In other words, under capitalism, recyclable means profitable, period. That’s exactly why, despite all the grandiose green talk by politicians, and their bosses—corporate America—waste and pollution only keep increasing.