California legislature passes plastic bag ban

| September 9, 2014

After months—make that years—of rumblings, it’s official: California’s legislature has passed a bill that bans single-use plastic bags throughout the entire state. Individual municipalities throughout the state (and around the country) have already implemented bag bans on single-use plastic bags, but if California governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, it will be the first time this type of policy will be enacted at the state level.

California has always been progressive when it comes to environmental causes. (If you’ve ever filled your car up with gas in the sunshine state, you’ll remember the anti-fume gas nozzles.) This latest bill is another huge statement about California’s environmental positioning.

bag ban

The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year. From Taber Andrew Bain.

The U.S. reportedly churns through an astonishing 100 billion single-use plastic bags every year. With around one in eight Americans living in California (and countless more visiting each year as tourists), taking California off the plastic bag grid will have a massive impact.

Here’s why this is such a big deal: While single-use plastic bags are theoretically recyclable, a miniscule percentage of them actually are recycled. The rest end up in landfills, in waterways, stuck on tree branches, along the side of the highway, and just about every other imaginable nook and cranny. Plastic bags decompose at an extraordinarily slow rate, meaning that they just keep piling up.

In spite of all the evidence against single-use plastic bags, the bill is not without controversy. Reporting for the Bay Area’s KTVU, Matt Picht says that, “California Republicans argue the bill will take away jobs from bag manufacturers.” Also at issue: the proposed alternative to plastic bags. Under the bill in question, grocery stores and convenience stores will not be allowed to provide plastic bags to their customers. Customers must either bring in their own bags or fork over ten cents for a paper or reusable plastic bag. Picht says California Republicans are concerned that the surcharge will unfairly impact low-income families.

The bill includes $2 million in funding, which will go to bag manufacturers to help them “retool their assembly lines to produce more sustainable bags.”

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Category: Plastic, Recycling programs, Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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