California Bans Plastic Bags

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By Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan


Californians would no longer get plastic bags at supermarket check-out stands, and many children would have to wait longer to enter kindergarten under proposals advanced Wednesday by state lawmakers.

The hottest debate Wednesday was in the state Assembly, which voted 41 to 27 to pass a bill that would ban single-use plastic grocery bags — the first of its kind in the nation, according to lawmakers and environmentalists. Shoppers would have to bring reusable bags to the store or pay at least 5 cents each for recycled paper bags at the checkout counter.

Schwarzenegger has indicated that he would sign the bill, AB 1998 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), if it passes the Senate as expected.

Environmentalists say the single-use bags endanger marine life and are more likely to foul beaches than any other form of pollution. Californians use 19 billion such bags a year, or 552 per person, according to an Assembly analysis. The measure was sponsored by Santa Monica group Heal the Bay. Opposition comes largely from the plastics industry.

Cities including San Francisco, Palo Alto, Malibu and others across the country have already instituted such bans. “It’s easier to have a statewide ban than it is to have to figure out how to operate city to city,” said Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D- Los Angeles).

The California Grocers Assn. has endorsed the ban.

“It doesn’t surprise me that certain elements of big business have removed their opposition,” said Assemblyman and U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), an opponent of the bill, alluding to the fee shoppers would have to pay for recycled bags. “As long as they don’t get gouged, they’re more than happy to dump the consumer under the bus.”

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