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California Again Considers Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

(5/20/2014)

Following last year’s failed proposal, lawmakers in California are taking new steps to enact a statewide single-use plastic bag ban, pitching a legislative compromise that has already won support from a key committee. Senate Bill 270, which is sponsored by State Senator Kevin de Leon and State Senator Alex Padilla, would impose a 10-cent fee on any paper or reusable plastic bags sold to customers. In addition, the measure would provide $2 million in grant money from a California recycling fund to help plastic bag-making businesses start producing reusable bags. If the bill is passed, California would become the first state to enact a measure limiting single-use plastic bags.

“SB 270 strikes the right balance,” said Padilla. “It will protect the environment and it will protect California jobs as the state transitions to reusable bags. Single-use plastic bags are not just a coastal issue. It is a statewide problem that deserves a statewide solution.”

Despite strong opposition from plastics industry lobbyists and some local bag manufacturers, Senate Bill 270 passed the California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee on a 5-3 vote last week. Before reaching the floor of the Legislature, the bill must clear a final hurdle in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the measure later passes the Legislature and is signed into law, the ban would take effect in 2015 for large retailers and grocery stores, with pharmacies and liquor stores impacted in 2016.

A single-use bag bill considered last year fell three votes short of California Senate approval, prompting de Leon and Padilla to offer an alternative measure that includes fees and funding potential. Several environmental and business groups are supporting Senate Bill 270, including Heal the Bay, the California Grocers Association, and the California Retailers Association. Conversely, organizations like the American Progressive Bag Alliance are opposing the ban, paying for local TV commercials that criticize the measure as anti-business.

“The truth is singling out one product that makes less than 1% of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream will have no meaningful impact on reducing litter,” said Bill Carteaux, president of SPI, a plastics industry trade group. “Instead, it will result in forcing consumers to use products such as reusable bags, which are mostly imported from China and are not recyclable.”



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