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California bans use of plastic bags by grocery stores

By Nathan Salant     Oct 2, 2014 in Environment
Sacramento - California became the first state to outlaw single-use plastic bags Tuesday, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed an industry-opposed bill to phase out the ubiquitous sacks within two years.
Brown had been expected to sign the bill, SB270, but took more than a month to sign it, prompting speculation that he was considering a veto prompted by furious opposition from plastic and bag makers.
But in a statement announcing the bill-signing, Brown called the ban "monumental" and made no mention of the delay.
“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said.
“We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last,” he said.
Indeed, dozens of local communities in California, including San Francisco and Davis, have already enacted their own versions of the ban, which applies to supermarkets and other retailers that made plastic bags ubiquitous across the state.
Plastic bags are blamed for clogging landfills and stormwater drains, polluting beaches and injuring wildlife that became entangled or tried to digest them, which inspired state environmental groups to launch a statewide campaign to ban them.
A similar bill failed in the legislature last year, but changes to the proposal muted some industry opposition.
But industry groups that remained opposed the ban pledged to launch a statewide initiative campaign to overturn it.
An organization called the American Progressive Bag Alliance filed to launch such a campaign on the same day of the bill signing.
“Our research confirms that the vast majority of California voters are opposed to legislation that bans recyclable plastic bags and allows grocers to charge and keep fees on other bags,” a statement from the organization said, denouncing SB 270 as "a back room deal between grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers."
But Mark Murray, executive director of a group that sponsored the ban, Californians Against Waste, discounted the initiative threat because, he said, residents living in communities that had local bans end up liking the results.
“The more the public sees the policy, the more they like it,” Murray said.
“Once it’s implemented in your community, your support for it grows,” he said.
The new law requires consumers to pay up to 10 cents for a single-use bag or to purchase environmentally friendly multl-use bags at checkout, and authorizes fines of up to $5,000 on businesses that refuse to stop using the bags or fail to offer substitutes.
Jena Price of the California League of Conservation Voters called the new law a "monumental win for the environmental movement."
More about California, Environment, Plastic bags, Brown, statewide
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