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Support Grows for Plastic Bag Ban  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

June 03, 2010 --The traditional checkout stand question of “paper or plastic?” could soon lose the word “plastic.” The State Assembly is expected this week to vote on a bill for a ban on plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

Under the plan, retailers would only be allowed to provide paper bags that are at least 40 percent recycled for a charge of at least 5 cents. The legislation encourages people to use reusable bags.

The bill, AB 1998, was introduced by Santa Monica Assemblymember Julia Brownley. She held a press conference in Sacramento on Tuesday to announce crucial support recently received by the California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

“By passing AB 1998, California will signal its commitment to wean itself off the costly plastic and paper bag habit that is threatening marine life and spoiling the natural beauty of this state,” Brownley said.

California’s waters and coastline are littered with debris because of the state’s annual use of 19 billion plastic bags, which negatively affects 267 species, the organization California Environment says. The organization held a press conference with other AB 1998 advocates at the Santa Monica Pier on Tuesday to encourage support for the bill.

“California has some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in the entire world,” said Gina Goodhill, Environment California’s ocean advocate.”


The environmental group Heal the Bay has been working on getting a plastic bag ban approved in California for several years and is a sponsor of the bill. President Mark Gold said the ban is needed to respond to California’s growing “marine debris crisis.”

“It is now of global proportions,” he said. “And this is a step that California can take to be a leader in the United States, to follow in the footsteps of so many other countries who have done this long ago.”
A plastic bag ban exists in China, Bangladesh and India. Also, several California cities have one in place, including Malibu and San Francisco.

Santa Monica was scheduled to vote on a ban last year, but delayed this so that an environmental impact report could be completed. This decision came after an attorney representing a coalition of plastic bag manufactures and related businesses submitted a letter to the City saying he intended to file a lawsuit if Santa Monica approved the measure. This group successfully got a plastic bag ban in Manhattan Beach blocked. The State Supreme Court last month agreed to hear the case.

The coalition is also opposed to a statewide ban. A message on its web site,, states, “ If AB 1998 passes, stores and consumers will simply switch to paper bags, as they have done in San Francisco. Paper bags are much worse for the environment than plastic bags.” The American Chemistry Council is also opposed to the bill.

If the bill passes the Assembly, it would move on to the Senate for consideration. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the legislation. If approved, the law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.


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