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California Assembly Passes Plastic Bag Ban
Volume 719
June 8, 2010

The California Assembly has voted to prohibit grocery, liquor, convenience and drug stores from offering customers plastic bags, taking a significant step toward enacting the strongest legislation of its kind in the U.S. The bill, which passed the Assembly in a 41-27 vote, still requires approval by the state’s Senate. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Not only does the California bill place a ban on plastic bags, it also requires customers to be charged for using store-provided paper bags. The legislation is considered even more sweeping than an ordinance passed in San Francisco in 2007, which requires supermarkets and large drug stores to offer customers bags made only of recyclable paper, cloth or plastic that can be turned into compost.

The highly controversial bill has clear supporters and opponents. For example, the American Chemistry Council, which has feverishly lobbied against similar bans, insists the bill would serve as a $1 billion tax and threaten 500 jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing business. Conversely, many environmental groups and the California Grocers Association, are backing the bill, believing it would positively affect consumer behavior. Bill proponents also say California taxpayers spend about $25 million every year picking up and disposing of plastic bags.

If approved by the California Senate, the plastic bag ban could go into effect as early as January 2012. California would become the first state in the country to enact such a law.

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