Lawmakers in California are again debating a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, after a new measure passed through a key Assembly committee earlier this month. The bill, the latest of several recent attempts by California legislators to restrict single-use bags, calls for a ban to go into effect by January 1, 2015. "I am pleased that this important bill has cleared its first legislative hurdle," said California Assemblyman Marc Levine, the bill's sponsor. "The elimination of plastic bags is inevitable and it is time for a statewide solution to this problem."
If eventually passed, the ban would initially apply to large retailers as well as grocery stores that generate $2 million or more in annual revenue. Convenience stores would have until 2016 to comply with the legislation, which would allow stores to sell recycled paper bags and reusable totes to customers.
Previous measures similar to Levine's bill have stalled in California's Legislature in past years, with lawmakers arguing a ban is too restrictive of personal choice. Despite the lack of a statewide ban, more than four dozen communities in California, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Pasadena, have adopted ordinances that prohibit retailers from handing out single-use bags at checkout counters. Supporters of a ban say single-use plastic bags harm the environment and cost California $25 million annually to collect and transport the waste to landfills. Those who oppose a ban believe it's nothing more than overregulation that hurts the plastics industry and cuts jobs.
Levine's bill, which will next face a vote in the California Assembly's appropriations committee, is one of two authored this year to reduce the impact of single-use bags. State Senator Alex Padilla is proposing the other.