California lawmakers give green light to plastic bag ban

A ban on single-use plastic bags in California is expected to be signed into law after the states senate passed a bill barring single-use plastic bags from retailers from next July.

The California Senate recently voted 22-15 to ban single-use plastic bags, making it the first state in the US to approve such a measure.

The bill now heads to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by 30 September.

“Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes,” said state Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the bill.

Padilla backed a similar measure last year but it failed by three votes.
The fate of this bill was uncertain until the waning hours of the session (29 August) after falling three votes short in the state’s Assembly last Monday (25 August).

However after picking up the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the bill passed a second vote in the Assembly.

The measure would ban grocery stores from handing out single-use grocery bags with customers’ purchases. If paper bags are offered to customers they would have to include recycled content. The measure would also provide up to $2m in competitive loans to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags.

Customers will be able to buy paper bags for 10 cents, or bring their own bags and not be charged. The bill has a couple of exceptions, including one for produce at stores.

More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, according to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an environmental group supporting the bill.

Californians Against Waste executive director Mark Murray said: “We no longer have to speculate on whether bag bans are good policy. 

“Bag bans reduce plastic pollution and waste, lower bag costs at grocery stores, and now we’re seeing job growth in California at facilities that produce better alternatives.”

Liz Gyekye

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