California Environmental Groups Blast $6M+ in Plastic Industry Spending to Defeat Prop. 67

October 5, 2016 (OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA)-California environmental organizations Save The Bay and Clean Water Action travelled to Hartsville, South Carolina, on Wednesday, and unfurled a 30-foot banner outside the headquarters of Novolex, the world’s largest manufacturer of single-use plastic bags, to ask for a meeting with Novolex chief executive Stan Bikulege. The groups made the “house call” to demand that Novolex cease its efforts to defeat Prop. 67 on California’s November ballot, which voters must pass to uphold the state’s groundbreaking ban on single-use plastic bags that litter our landscapes, foul our waterways and harm our wildlife.

Novolex is the biggest spender among the out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers that have put more than $6 million into their attempt to overturn California’s ban on single-use plastic bags, according to the latest figures issued by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Companies including South Carolina-based Novolex, Texas-based Suberbag Corp., and New Jersey-based Formosa Plastics have formed a California ballot initiative committee deceptively called The American Progressive Bag Alliance to coordinate their efforts to overturn bag-ban legislation, SB 270, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.

The industry funded the signature drive to put SB 270 on hold and place it before voters as Prop. 67, and is now working to defeat it. The industry also placed a competing measure, Prop. 65, on the ballot to confuse voters.

California’s state-wide law follows more than 150 local bag bans in the state, and the American Progressive Bag Alliance has also paid Washington, D.C.-based lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to push for preemptive bans on local bag bans in Georgia, South Carolina, Idaho, and Wisconsin.

“We gathered 50,000 signatures from our supporters in California, asking Novolex to keep its dirty out-of-state money out of our politics, and we wanted to present them to Mr. Bikulege and ask him to withdraw his financial backing for overturning the ban,” said Matt Davis with Clean Water Action, speaking in Hartsville, SC. “We don’t like that Mr. Bikulege and his friends are hiding behind D.C.-based front groups as they profit from killing California’s wildlife, but he won’t even meet with Californians to hear our point of view.”

Novolex representatives said Bikulege was unavailable, but the environmentalists were able to speak briefly with the company's vice president for sustainability, Mark Daniels. Daniels refused to accept the Californians’ petition or to reconsider the company's strategy of attacking California’s environmental protections.

The environmentalists then unloaded thousands of plastic bags collected from California shorelines, waterways, and households, and displayed childrens’ drawings of wildlife threatened by plastic bags.

“We're asking Novolex to take back some of the toxic trash they generate here in California, and to stop undermining California's environmental protections,” said Cyril Manning with Save The Bay, speaking in Hartsville, SC.

“Californians are tired of out of state companies trying to influence our elections and despoil our environment. We will vote Yes on Prop. 67 to uphold the country’s first statewide ban on plastic bags, and vote No on Prop. 65, the industry’s deceptive attempt to undermine our state’s bag ban,” said Manning.

Inspired by the efforts of the California campaign groups, Rep. James E. Smith Jr. (D-Richland County) has now pledged to introduce a statewide bag ban bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives, modelled after California’s law.

Rep. Smith said: “This demonstration has inspired me to make South Carolina better by introducing a single-use plastic bag ban here. Our state’s businesses know better than to chase short-term profits at the expense of the environment.”

Several local Sierra Club leaders provided on-the-ground support for the priest, and local environmental leaders from the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina Sierra Club, 5 Gyres Institute, Savannah Riverkeeper, and Charleston Waterkeeper joined California conservationists and added their voices demanding Novolex to stop meddling in west coast politics, thwarting South Carolina Home Rule, and jeopardizing important conservation legislation in communities all over the country.

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Notes to editors

Save The Bay is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay since 1961. Save The Bay led the successful effort to pass regional Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay, securing $500 million in funding over 20 years for critical Bay restoration. Today it is building a regional movement to achieve a healthy, sustainable Bay in the era of climate change and a growing Bay Area population. 

Clean Water Action is a national organization, founded in 1972, that has 50,000 members in California and over one million nationwide. We empower people to take action to protect water resources, build healthy communities, and make democracy work. Visit us at www.cleanwateraction.org and follow us on Twitter at @cleanh2oactionca

Miriam Gordon
(415) 902 5196
Matt Davis
(510) 717-1617
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