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Plastic Bag Ban on the Horizon?

A state Assemblyman introduced a law to prohibit single-use plastic bags in California in 2015.

A once-failed effort to eliminate single-use plastic bags across California has been recycled by a state Assemblyman.

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced the legislation in January that would prohibit single-use plastic bags beginning in 2015.

Levine resurrected Assembly Bill 298, a failed 2011-12 proposal. That legislation cleared the Assembly floor in 2011 but faced opposition from plastic bag manufacturers and grocers and was never heard by the Senate, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"To continue the use of these bags would ignore the convincing body of global evidence proving that these bags are having a drastic effect on marine ecocultures," Levine said in a press release. "Additionally, there are several easily available and affordable alternatives to plastic bags. We need to ban these bags once and for all."

Despite its miles of affected coastline, Orange County has been slow to embrace efforts to ban plastic bags.

Last year Dana Point and Laguna Beach became the only cities countywide to ban plastic bags. In Laguna, grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores and mini-marts, gas station markets, farmers markets and clothing stores are prohibited from dispensing single-use plastic bags. The retailers face steep fines if caught using plastic bags. The Dana Point ban will take effect in April.

San Clemente is set to consider a plastic bag ban this year. The cause has been championed by the Surfrider Foundation, which also successfully pushed for a 2011 ban on Styrofoam restaurant containers in San Clemente.

Other coastal cities such as Seal Beach have mulled over such bans without taking action. In other cities such as Long Beach, shoppers who use plastic bags must pay a 10-cent tax per bag. Statewide, about 50 cities and a handful of counties have enacted the bans already.

Bag manufacturers, however, remain staunchly opposed to eliminating plastic bags from grocery store checkout stands. Bag the Ban, a project of recycled content by high-density polyethylene bag manufacturer Hilex Poly, calls the bans "trendy" and legislation that “feels good to pass."

"Legislators should instead be spending time and money on legislation that has a positive impact for families and the economy," a Bag the Ban spokeswoman said.

Here are the fundamentals of Levine's proposal:

  1. Beginning on January 1, 2015, full-line grocery stores with more than $2 million in annual sales or retailers with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space would be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.
  2. From January 1, 2015 to July 30, 2016, stores above could provide recycled paper bags to customers.
  3. Stores subject to this bill would be required to make reusable grocery bags available for sale.

He says it will help reduce litter and protect marine wildlife. Plastic bags account for about 10 percent of trash that washes up on beaches, according to Levine. Worldwide, it's believed people use about 500 billion plastic bags annually.

Opponents say that means the problem is litter, not plastic bags, according to CalWatchdog, a journalism venture covering the state capitol.

There also has been criticism of how dirty reusable bags get.

"And unfortunately, most shoppers are completely unaware that, without proper cleaning, reusable shopping bags can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food-borne illness," according to Bag the Ban.

The cost of reusable bags has come under fire as well. Although it seems every store, community group and company gives out free reusable bags, many customers purchase them when they checkout. Under Levine's bill, grocery stores will have to provide paper or reusable bags to low-income customers.

"Levine’s bill will impose another unnecessary tax on the consumer and once again penalize private industry," CalWatchdog opined.

In California, about 16 percent of the state's population is covered by a single-use plastic bag prohibition, according to Californians Against Waste. It hasn't been perfect, though. Complaints from consumers range from trouble remembering their reusable bags to no longer having plastic bags to clean up their dog's poop. About 90 percent of Americans reuse their plastic bags at least once, for everything from storage to waste disposal to packing material, according data from Bag the Ban.

Do you support a statewide ban on plastic bags at grocery stores?

cheryl February 06, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Oh my gosh.......where else can they hit us in the pocketbook???? I am so tired of the lawmakers taking more and more of my paycheck every time I turn around. From the extremely high gas prices here in south OC, to the increased payroll tax, the increased sales tax, the higher food costs, etc. now they want to nickel and dime me to death by FORCING me to PURCHASE bags to take my groceries that I am already overpaying for home?? When is enough enough??
Joanne H February 06, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Reusable bags are the only way to go!!! Say NO to single use plastic bags!!
LM February 06, 2013 at 05:27 PM
When I was a kid it was "don't use paper bags, plastic is better for the environment, saves trees" now they want to ban "single use" plastic bags that I reuse as trash bags, lunch bags, etc... This just means I have to BUY disposable plastic bags at the grocery store instead of reusing the ones provided with my purchase! Reusable bags are a joke, you are more likely to retain organic matter in a reusable bag which will in turn spoil and contaminate your just bought groceries, like reusing a rubber glove. Some will say to wash your reusable bags after each trip to the store but then you are wasting water. If people stop asking for the bags then stores will stop providing them, until then the eco-nazis should stop dictating the minute details of our lives.
LN Mark February 06, 2013 at 05:42 PM
They are not single use at my house. I'm not going to wrap my trash in a reusable bag. I do use reusable bags and always keep a couple in my car. But sometimes it is simply more convenient to use the plastic. I'd rather have our state assembly working on more pressing problems than this.
JTTPW February 06, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Conversely, say YES to the free market, and the right of adult citizens to make their own choices, with less interference from the government. Thank you for considering an alternate point of view.
JustUs February 06, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Instead of banning plastic bags and soaking the consumer for another hidden tax why don't they require biodegradable plastic bags that disintegrate into the environment after a certain amount of time after being exposed to the elements? That's the way they make most doggie bags. Why can't they do the same with plastic shopping bags? They always want to use the strongarm approach to punish everyone and force more hidden taxes.
Julie Flores February 06, 2013 at 08:18 PM
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/05/do-biodegradable-plastics-really-work
JustUs February 06, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Thanks for supporting my idea.
Julie Flores February 06, 2013 at 08:35 PM
did you read the article?
JTTPW February 06, 2013 at 09:38 PM
I agree with LM. Unfortunately, it’s never really about the environment, it’s about our ‘betters” being able to CONTROL our lives. Trees are a renewable resource, cut one down, plant another. Paper companies do it every day, and it keeps them in business. “Paper or plastic” has become a punch line for a joke, but in reality, isn’t it nice to be able to choose? Thanks.
JustUs February 06, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Yes, I did. Biodegradables (by definition) disintegrate when exposed to the elements over time. Bacteria feed on them. And it's much more sanitary to use clean plastic rather then dirty old reusables with millions of germs hiding in the fibers as a food container. Reusables would increase food borne illnesses significantly and increase our health care system costs. Three cheers for plastics! Save our trees!
MisturChips February 06, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Definitely keep the plastic bags! Just like labeling something it's not, but could be USED in such fashion (Assault bags, anyone?), I re-use plastic bags constantly. I use them at the gym to hold my nasty towel when done, they pick up my dog's poop, (guaranteeing less water use to scrub it off my bare hands), bring my lunches to work and back, pull corks out of bottles, insulate my ham radio antennas and other electronic projects, and even * gasp * bring my groceries home. Our home has a couple of fabric 'tubes' that hold our bags. Paper bags are saved in the pantry for use in baking, covering books, or protecting from paint splatter etc. Just like many other social issues and non-issues that we make such a big deal out of, the problem is LITTERING. From what I understand, Ice, water, or chicken feathers are legal, but that's about it as far as what's allowed to spew from your vehicle on a highway. I see the $1000 fine for littering signs on the highway, yet have never ONCE stumbled upon or hearing of anyone I know receiving a citation for it.
Kelly Sawyer "Animal Defender" February 07, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Plastic bags are unnecessary and killing what is left of the ocean the nets haven't scraped dry--when we destroy our oceans we all will be spending more money to fill our oxygen tanks than gas in a SUV--This is an ordinance to dress up Politician resume-- really tho? arguing over plastic bags while our reputation is BECOMING TRASH--There CRITICAL AND URGENT ISSUES-ANYONE EVER HEARD OF PUPPYMILLS???-- Burbank banned the sale of puppy mill puppies last night -- 31 cities, all surrounding N.B., and N.B. 's own Irvine Company land owner. Council has already signed us all up--MADE NEWPORT TAX PAYERS INVESTORS, SUPPORTERS, PROFITEERS, OF THE PUPPY MILL INDUSTRY w/a $16 MILLION DOLLAR DOG FRAUD PARK SCREAMS IT--NO Person or entity HAS BEAT A PUPPY MILL STAIN EVER - NEWPORT IS THE PUPPY MILL INDUSTRY-Council partnered one if it's largest CRIMINAL RETAILERS over Constituents- A CONVICTED CRUELTY CRIMINAL Dan Digiacomo OWNER OF RUSSO'S--Digiacomo retails AWA Violating Torture Puppies-HE DEALS AND RETAILS IN NEVADA selling federal torture puppies USING NEWPORT BEACH REPUTATION while lying to OC Register saying his income is cut in half because America says no to his Billion Dollar Tax Burden Industry-- CRIMINAL IS STEALING MORE THAN OUR MONEY-BYE BYE NEWPORT REPUTATION-- Americans are Banning Puppy Mills & Newport makes the most unconscionable Disgraceful move UNIMAGINABLE--here is FEDERAL CANINE TORTURE SOLD IN NEVADA USING NEWPORTS NAME! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW_eIpHX3Ic
Kelly Sawyer "Animal Defender" February 07, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Here is Newport Beach PUPPY MILL INDUSTRY-- with legal USDA AWA Violating Documents funded by the city of Newport Beach to FEDERAL LAW VIOLATING PUPPY MILL that is mass murdering puppy mill dogs CUZ WE PAY HIM TO... and THEN WE sell baby federal torture OF MAN'S BEST FRIEND under fraud to valued patrons.... TIME TO STAND UP FOR MAN'S BEST FRIEND OR WE GET WHAT WE DESERVE- Nothing worse than a bunch of rich selfish puppy killers... YEP ..They are already saying in the state and across the nation while our neighbor cities all ARE HONORABLE AMERICANS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8I1vYExRjM
Julie Flores February 07, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Plastic bags are banned where my sister lives (Pasadena) and she does a lot of grocery shopping. The ban hasn't changed her grocery bill and hasn't had any negative impact on her life. When I go to Costco and they don't give any kind of bags and I just deal with it and so does everyone else.

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