California lawmakers pass nation's first plastic bag ban - Tucson News Now

California lawmakers pass nation's first plastic bag ban

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The bill, designed to cut down on plastic waste in the waterways, now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. (Source: deputnam.files.wordpress.com  / MGN Online The bill, designed to cut down on plastic waste in the waterways, now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. (Source: deputnam.files.wordpress.com / MGN Online

SACRAMENTO, CA (RNN) - California became the first state in the nation to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags, passing the measure on Friday.

The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

If Brown signs the legislation, single-use plastic grocery bags will be prohibited in supermarkets and drug stores by July 1, 2015, with smaller grocery stores and convenience stores following suit by July 1, 2016.

Under the bill, stores will be able to sell a recycled paper bag for no less than 10 cents, except if the shopper receives food stamps or is a recipient of a nutrition program for women and children. 

The funds generated by the sale of the 10-cent bags can only be used in relation to the store's compliance with the law.

The bill also appropriates $2 million for creation and retention of jobs related to manufacturing and "recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags that use recycled content," the bill stated.

Sen. Kevin De Leon, who introduced the bill along with Sens. Alex Padilla and Ricardo Lara, hailed the measure earlier in the month for its protection of the environment from plastic waste as well as a way of creating new jobs. 

He called it "a proactive solution that moves the economy forward into the green future. With it, we will dramatically reduce the scourge of single-use plastic bags on our coastlines, our beautiful beaches, the Los Angeles River; at the same time, let me highlight and emphasize, grow jobs in California for Californians."

Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit environmental group, was among those fighting for the bill's passage. 

"Despite their lightweight and compact characteristics, plastic bags disproportionately impact the solid waste and recycling stream and persist in the environment even after they have broken down," the group stated.

Other jurisdictions in the Golden State have already enacted bans, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Marin County, according to Californians Against Waste.

A similar measure failed last year, and this year's bill passage was fraught with drama, according to the San Jose Mercury News, with a lobbying group decrying the economic impact of a 10-cent charge on shoppers who don't bring their own bags.

“SB 270 is perhaps the most flawed and intentionally misleading bill currently in front of the California legislature,” said Lee Califf, American Progressive Bag Alliance executive director. His group that launched a six-figure advertising campaign against the measure. 

"We are running these new ads to encourage Californians to call their legislators in opposition to a bill that will kill manufacturing jobs and scam consumers so grocers can collect billions in bag fees from their customers, without providing any public benefit,” he said.

Plastic waste presents a tremendous problem to the health of the world's oceans and the life within it. Marine animals become ensnared in plastic waste or mistake it for food and eat it, introducing harmful chemicals into the food chain.

The nonprofit organization 5 Gyres reported that after one use, roughly 50 percent of the billions of plastic bags and bottles used in the U.S. is buried in landfills. However, much gets lost in the environment, eventually washing out to sea.

Debris is carried by ocean currents to remote areas, circulating in five large gyres, or slow-moving currents.

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