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CA Assembly Passes Ban on Single-Use Grocery Bags

The state of California has taken the first step towards banning free single-use grocery bags.

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.

California, Rhode Island, New York and Delaware and cities like Chicago and Tucson have recently passed laws requiring stores to take back plastic bags and film for recycling, says American Recycler.

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.

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6 thoughts on “CA Assembly Passes Ban on Single-Use Grocery Bags

  1. Good for California. It’s not all about recycling. Plastic bags accumulate in sewers, waterways and the oceans threatening aquatic life. And plastic is from petroleum products lest we forget BP’s disaster.

  2. From an environmental standpoint, plastic bags are by far the superior choice. They take much less energy and water to produce & recycle. Also, much less deisel fuel to distribute. Not to mention, they take up much less space in landfills. Litter is the problem. Why don’t we attack the problem of litter rather than doing something that makes us feel good but will create an environmental disaster. Please research what has happened in San Francisco’s (as well as other areas that have banned bags) landfill. It has more plastic now than prior to the ban. By the way, the previous comment is in error. Plastic bags are not made from crude oil but from natural gas. There is a lot of misinformation about plastic bags. Let’s focus on the litter problem and support a product that is honestly good for the environment. Our movement has lost a lot of credibility because many of the leaders in the envirnomental movement haven’t been honest with information. Just look at the entire global warming data hiding fiasco. If we truly care about the environment, we need to look at things scientifically and use facts to support our actions. The facts are that plastic bags are the best alternative environmentally.

  3. It looks like the US is finally making progress with banning plastic bags. I have not used any in almost 2 years and wish more people would look into alternatives for shopping. My collapsible crate has served me well and I am trying to spread the word for more people to use them. Shopping is a pleasure with my EcoPOPBox.

  4. And as always pass the buck to the consumer. If they are going to use recycled bags in leiu of plastic bags, then give them for free to the consumer. I have a big family and right now I’m out of a job, if I have to worry about buying recycled bags instead of food, I’m going to buy less food each time I go to the supermarket. They are recyled, give them for free.

  5. Finally some common sense and a move in the right direction! I use cloth bags which are now cheap to purchase and if you spread the cost of buying them between now and the time the legislation is approved it literally will not cost the earth.

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