California advances grocery store plastic bag ban
The California Assembly on Wednesday approved a bill that would ban stores from providing plastic bags, and require them to charge for paper ones. Similar bans are in place in China and Bangladesh.
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The state Assembly approved AB 1998 Wednesday, which would require shoppers who don’t bring their own bags to the store to purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material or buy reusable totes. The statewide ban, which would go further than plastic bag bans in at least five cities, including San Francisco, would be the nation’s first. It moves on to the Senate Thursday, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he supports it – a rare revelation that could aid its passage, according to several observers.
(It passed the Assembly 41-27, with no Republican votes.)
Some 19 billion bags a year are used by California’s 38 million people. According to the bill's the sponsor, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, the state spends $25 million annually to collect and bury a portion of them. China and Bangladesh already have plastic bag bans in place, and the United Nations has called for the bans to go global. North Carolina has banned plastic bags on its Outer Banks.
“By passing AB 1998, Californians are signaling to the nation their commitment to wean themselves from a costly plastic and paper bag habit that is threatening marine life and spoiling the natural beauty of this state,” Ms. Brownley said in a statement. “Single-use bags are major contributors to marine debris, which has injured or killed 267 species worldwide.”
She calls the plastic bags “urban tumbleweed.”
Environmental groups have enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a bag ban.
“Clearly this is the right thing to do regarding the environment and ocean life,” says Wade Crowfoot, a senior analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He notes the growth of the great pacific garbage patch, a vortex of plastic trash that many scientists suggest extends over a very wide area of ocean – with estimates ranging from an area the size of Texas to larger than the continental United States.