New York City The California State Assembly on Wednesday narrowly approved a bill would make California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic and paper bags from being handed out free of charge at supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and liquor stores.
The proposed law would apply to supermarkets, chain pharmacies and other large grocery retailers beginning Jan. 1, 2012, and at convenience stores, neighborhood markets and liquor stores beginning July 1, 2013.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. It is being supported by the California Grocers Association.
"AB 1998 [the number of the bill] creates a uniform, statewide standard to help level the playing field among food retailers," said California Grocers Association president Ronald Fong. "It addresses the issue of single-use carryout bags across all California jurisdictions and provides the most environmental gain with the least competitive disruption for retailers."
Under the new legislation, shoppers who don’t bring their own bags to the store would have to purchase paper bags (made of at least 40% recycled material) or reusable totes from the store.
The statewide ban would be the nation’s first. It now moves on to the Senate. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he supports it.
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.