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California Senators Promote Bag Ban Bill for 2014

January 31 2014 | Legal, Rise Above Plastics, Bag Bans,
by Angela Howe

California State Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach) recently announced support for legislation to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and place a fee on single-use paper bags in California.  These three Senators have partnered with the environmental community, the California Grocers Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers to come up with a workable statewide solution to the problem of single-use plastic bag pollution.

What does the new bill say?

Although the final language of the bill has not yet been released, the bill is expected as a "gut and amend" of Senator Padilla's current Senate Bill 270.  It will be very similar to Padilla's 2013 bill SB 405, which proposed a ban on single-use plastic bags and a ten-cent fee on paper bags.  SB 405 came up three votes short of passing the Senate last year. For this year's new bill, two new proponents Senator Kevin de Leon and Senator Ricardo Lara will reportedly be added as joint authors of the bill.

What are the key provisions of the bill?

The bill would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies by July 1, 2015. If paper bags or reusable bags are offered to customers, the bags must be provided at a charge.  Both paper bags and reusable bags must have a minimum amount of postconsumer recycled content. Further, the bill would go on to prohibit single-use bags at smaller convenience stores, foodmarts and liquor stores after July 1, 2016.

SB 270 reportedly will include language to address concerns regarding potential job losses at manufacturing facilities that currently make single-use bags.  These companies will be allowed grant funding to "retool" their factories and retrain their employees to make reusable bags. The $2 million in grant funding would come from recycling funds under the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.  

Regarding the durability of reusable grocery bags, under the bill, they must be designed for at least 125 uses with a minimum thickness of at least 2.25 mils for plastic reusable bags and a minimum fabric weight of at least 80 grams per square meter for woven or fiber bags.

How can you support a California state bag ban?

If you live in California, you can easily contact your State Senator through Surfrider Foundation's "Ban the Bag California" action alert linked here.  This alert also offers the phone number for your Senator, if you want follow up with a call to your Senate office.  If you want to get more involved with Surfrider Foundation's Rise Above Plastics program, please check out our RAP page which offers various ideas to reduce your "plastic footprint".

According to CalRecycle, only 5% of single-use bags and film are recycled. To date, 90 municipalities in the state of California have enacted plastic bag ban ordinances, creating a patchwork of regulation on the issue throughtout the state. According to an EPA 2012 report, the direct costs of cleaning up marine litter for West Coast communities are more than $520 million. There is also very real environmental costs to marine life, birds and other wildlife, with over 663 species negatively affected by marine debris.

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