California Lawmakers Reject Statewide Ban on Plastic Bags

On August 31, 2010, the California Senate rejected Assembly Bill 1998, which would have placed a ban on plastic shopping bags. The bill called for the ban to take effect in supermarkets and large retail stores in 2012 and in smaller stores by 2013. The cost of recycled grocery bags, which is approximately 6 to 10 cents per bag, is currently absorbed by retailers. With this bill, however, larger retailers would be allowed to charge consumers for recycled paper bags starting in 2012. Lawmakers rejected the ban by a vote of 20 to 14.

Opponents of the bill called it a “job killer” and argued that it would be an extra financial burden on consumers and businesses. Lawmakers also debated whether the State would be going too far in regulating personal choice if they passed the bill. On the other hand, supporters noted that the approximately 19 billion plastic bags used by Californians per year harms the environment and costs the State $25 million annually to collect and transport to landfills.

Some cities in California already ban plastic shopping bags, including San Francisco, Palo Alto, Malibu, and Fairfax. Assembly Bill 1998 proposed the first statewide ban on plastic shopping bags, however.

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