On the eve of Rise Above Plastics Month, California’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags has become official. Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 270, the bill to ban single-use plastic bags and put a fee on paper bags. This is a historic victory that began at the grassroots level with constant pressure from local Surfrider Foundation Chapters and activists. This decision marks the first time a U.S. state has passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
SB 270 was authored by State Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). Before being signed into law, SB 270 passed the State Assembly on a 45 – 31 vote and then passed the State Senate on a 22 - 15 vote on August 29, 2014.
“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said Governor Brown. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”
Effective July 1, 2015, the new law prohibits single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies. The law requires retailers to provide paper or reusable bags constructed of at least 40% recycle content and charge a minimum 10-cent fee. The ban will extend to smaller convenience stores, foodmarts and liquor stores after July 1, 2016. Further, companies that currently manufacture plastic bags could be eligible for loans to “retool” their factories so that they can make reusable bags and respond to new market demands. The law does not preempt current bag bans that are already in place or in the works. But this statewide ban applies to the remaining 65% of the state that is already covered with a local bag ban.
Congratulations to all of the Surfrider Chapters, members, and clean water advocates who supported this effort over the past six years! Your hard work and perseverance has finally paid off!
Surfrider Chapters also have seen victories in Hawaii, Texas, Washington, D.C., and are working vigorously to help pass a bag ban bill in New York City.
It is estimated that somewhere between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used yearly worldwide. Nearly 20 billion plastic bags are used annually in California and most end up in landfills or as litter. After plastics enter the marine environment they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, sometimes with fatal results. The overriding problem with plastic bags, plastic bottles and other plastic materials is that they can take decades or centuries to degrade. Essentially, they're with us in the environment forever.
This October, Surfrider is launching its fourth annual Rise Above Plastics Month. During this month long campaign, the organization is calling on the public to learn the facts, pledge to reduce their plastic footprint, join a beach cleanup, help raise funds and enter Surfrider’s Plastic Art Contest. Learn more at rapmonth.org.
Change begins onshore. It begins with you. Join the Surfrider Foundation in protecting the coast and Rise Above Plastics.