Recent legislative moves have put California on the brink of becoming the first state to ban single-use plastic bags at retail stores and supermarkets. Last year, state Senator Alex Padilla sponsored a bill which would have phased out such bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies, but the legislation fell short by three votes in the Senate.
Padilla has since reworked the bill with some colleagues, and they said the changes should win over key lawmakers. The changes would require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for a reusable, paper or compostable bag, while the earlier bill called for a suggested bag fee but didn’t mandate one, according to the staff of Senator Kevin de Leon, who opposed last year’s measure but is co-sponsoring the latest version.
The bill also would set aside $2 million to retrain workers in the plastic-bag industry for recycling jobs. It would stipulate that reusable bags contain at least 40% recycled material by 2020, and it would establish third-party certification of reusable plastic bags to ensure they meet California standards. “We need to find a way to balance the health of the planet with the preservation of people’s livelihoods – and recognize the economic conditions faced by businesses in California,” de Leon said. “This new bill is a compromise that bridges the gap and moves the economy forward into a green future.”
Los Angeles and nearly 100 other cities in California have already passed various single-use plastic bag bans in their localities, but no state has yet passed the legislation that California is now preparing to pass. The new bill states that large supermarkets would have to do away with single-use plastic bags by the middle of 2015, while smaller stores would be granted exemptions until the middle of 2016.
After three unsuccessful attempts to outlaw single-use plastic bags, supporters of the bill say they are confident the most recent changes will help it to receive at least the 21 votes needed in the Senate for passage. “This breaks a decade-long deadlock on a statewide solution,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. “This bill is going to eliminate some 20-billion single-use plastic bags that become litter.”