California Plastic Bag Ban: Statewide Law Will Completely Ban Plastic Bags In California When Bill Is Signed

A California plastic bag ban will represent the first statewide law put into effect. On Friday, the state’s legislature voted on a ban on plastic grocery bags, which concludes the two-year session on the measure. If the bill is signed, all grocery plastic bags will be banned.

Reuters reports that the California Senate voted 22-15 for the bill. The next phase is having the bill signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, with the deadline being September 30th. State Senator Alex Padilla sponsored the bill.

“Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes,” Padilla says.

With the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the bill passed.

The California plastic bag ban would prohibit grocery stores from giving customers single-use bags. They won’t be allowed to pay bag manufacturers “to retool to make heavier, multiple-use bags that customers could buy,” according to the report.

Grocery stores have used plastic bags because they’re less expensive than paper bags, but environmental concerns exist with the non-biodegradable material used to make the bags. They pollute land, streams, lakes, rivers, and are swept out to sea. It poses a very real environmental threat.

Henry Mikus is the executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. A plastic bag ban there was passed in February. Mikus talks to The Press Democrat about the damage plastic bags do. He says:

“It’s a serious litter issue. You don’t have to go too far to see the effects of plastic bags. They’re all over our creeks, in our watersheds. It’s an environmental issue.”

Bag companies worry about what the plastic bag ban would mean for them.

General manager at Crown Poly, Cathy Browne, says the bill would translate to layoffs for plastic bag companies like hers. More than 10 million bags a year are used in the state of California, according to Californians Against Waste, a group that supports the bill.

As it stands now, there are a number of U.S. states that bans the use of plastic bags in certain counties and cities. In Hawaii’s Maui County, for example, it’s illegal for grocery stores to bag merchandise in plastic. Getting a plastic bag ban statewide, however, is far more difficult to achieve since bag companies strongly oppose the bill.

San Jose Mercury News reports that there are 115 counties and cities that have banned plastic bags in stores. An estimated 14 billion plastic bags are handed out every year. In general, 12 percent are recycled with California only representing 3 percent of that calculation.

[Image via KOMO News]