Plastic bag manufacturers are gathering thousands of signatures in order to file a referendum on California’s upcoming plastic bag ban, which is scheduled to take effect in July. If filed, the referendum would delay implementation of the law until November, and could possibly lead to it being overturned.

According to a recent report by the OC Register, the plastic bag industry is near to collecting all 505,000 signatures it needs for a referendum. If the industry files by the Monday deadline, the ban will be postponed until Californians can vote on it in November.

As the Register explains, “That means that manufacturers would have an additional 16 months to sell plastic bags in the state, even if their referendum fails. That amounts to $145 million worth of bags that would otherwise be banned, according to calculations by the pro-ban Californians Against Waste.”

According to Mark Daniels, the chairman of the American Plastic Bag Alliance, the referendum is for the good of consumers, not the plastic industry. “When consumers understand that this is a cash grab by the grocers,” he told the Register, “they’ll oppose this horrible legislation.”

When California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270 last September, he made his state the first in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. Originally, the first phase of the ban was to take place in July, eliminating plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies. The second phase, slated to take effect in July 2016, would then eliminate the bags in liquor stores and convenience stores.

In addition to accumulating on sidewalks, beaches and in the state’s drainage systems, plastic bags can also be mistaken for food by marine animals, leading to illness and even death. A 2008 Coastal Commission report found that 13.5 percent of shoreline litter was just plastic bags.

In an interview with Planet Experts, Dianna Cohen, co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, said that Novolex, the parent company of the nation’s largest plastic bag manufacturer, “has put up a lot of money” to overturn California’s ban, which has included hiring signature-gatherers via Craigslist.

“They were originally paying $1.50 per signature,” she said, “but now they’ve raised it to $2.50 per signature.”

According to Californians Against Waste, over $3 million has been spent on gathering enough signatures for the referendum, and 98 percent of that money has come from out-of-state.

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