The state Assembly narrowly approved Assembly Bill 1998 that would make California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic and paper bags from being handed out at grocery stores, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation will create a statewide standard for 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, reports the California Grocers Association, which backs the bill.
Under the new legislation, stores will have to provide reusable bags for sale or free distribution and would pre-empt local ordinances that regulate bags at those retailers, according to Waste & Recycling News.
As an example, the city of San Francisco already has banned plastic bags altogether in favor of paper bags or reusable bags, reports American Recycler.
However, according to the article, a paper bag delivers a hidden tax because it costs five times more than its plastic counterpart, which is typically paid for by the consumer, and making paper bags produces about twice the greenhouse gas emissions as plastic and results in about 80 percent more waste.
The article also notes challenges with biodegradable alternatives. These materials only breakdown when professionally managed in industrial food-composting facilities — there are less than 100 in the U.S. — and their inherent capability to breakdown causes problems when incorporated into recycled products such as plastic lumber.
American Recycler recommends recycling as a solution particularly as new collection programs are being expanded across the country including Target’s take-back plastic bag programs at their stores, according to the article.
In 2009, the Progressive Bag Affiliates, an industry group of major United States bag manufacturers, launched their Full Circle Initiative, which aims for 40 percent recycled content in all plastic bags by 2015, including at least 25 percent postconsumer recycled plastic.
Plastic bag and film recycling in the U.S. reached a record high in 2008, recovering about 832,394,000 pounds of post-consumer film, according to a study from the American Chemistry Council.