California Assembly passes legislation to ban free distribution of single-use carrier bags, moving bill to the Senate
Jessica Shankleman, BusinessGreen, 03 Jun 2010
Plastic bags

California remains on track to become the first US state to ban plastic and paper bags after the California Assembly yesterday approved legislation targeting single-use carrier bags.

Bill AB 1998, which now moves to the state Senate, would see free plastic and paper bags abolished at supermarkets, grocers and chain pharmacies from the start of 2012, with the ban extended to local convenience stores and off licences from mid-2013.

“By passing AB 1998, California will signal to the nation its commitment to wean itself from a costly single-use carryout bag habit that is threatening marine life and spoiling our waterways,” said assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who crafted the legislation.

She argued that single-use plastic bags have injured or killed at least 267 species worldwide, primarily through ingestion and entanglement, and cost Californians $25m (£17m) a year to collect and bury in landfills.

Advocates of the bill argue that it could also boost California’s tourism and fisheries industries, as well as save money for retailers that buy plastic bags to give out to customers.

Earlier this week, the California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers joined a long list of supporters of the bill.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Brownley told journalists she expected governor Schwarzenegger to support the bill.

“The governor has certainly given strong signals that this is a bill that he’s interested in,” she said. “We’ve been working closely in the governor’s office to make sure that this particular bill meets their interest as well. As a matter of fact we had one meeting in the governor’s office where he joined us for a minute or two.”

Supporters of the bill believe California could spark a trend across other US states that could eventually result in a similar bill appearing in Congress.

Neighbouring Oregon is considering following suit, and Washington, Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina have also expressed interest, according to Environment California legislative director Dan Jacobson.

Plastic bag bans or levies are also growing in popularity, with a number of countries considering legislation to cut waste levels and tackle one of the most visible symbols of unsustainable consumption.

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