by SASKIA SANI
A statewide plastic bag ban, which passed the State Senate Aug. 29, will make California the country’s first state to outlaw plastic grocery bags in both large grocery stores and smaller convenience markets by 2016.
Following similar failed bills that did not pass in Sacramento, a new bill, SB 270, has successfully passed after local bag bans in California have gone smoothly in the past few years. In the gubernatorial debate Sept. 4, Governor Jerry Brown stated that he is expecting to sign the bill into law, which would ban disposable grocery bags beginning July 2015 and require stores to charge 10 cents for paper bags unless establishments use their own reusable bags.
This bill would ban plastic bags from use in large grocery stores, food retailers and pharmacies starting July 1, 2015. Convenience markets, smaller food retailers and liquor stores would begin the ban July 1, 2016. However, disposable plastic bags will still be available for produce, meat, bulk food and perishable items.
In California, 124 cities and counties that are currently covered by the local bag ban ordinances. San Francisco was the first city to pass the ordinance in 2007. Other large cities such as Los Angeles, San Jose and Santa Barbara have followed suit.
According to the non-profit organization, Californians Against Waste, with the ban in effect, the use of 30 billion bags in 2006 will reduce to 14 million bags this year. South Pasadena City Council adopted a plastic ban ordinance Sept. 3 after unanimously approving it, 5-0.
“Single-use plastic bags are a concern to our residents because of the amount of trash they create,” explained South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez.
The City Council was encouraged by their Natural Resources and Environmental Commission to continue the ban and begin a plan with local businesses for a smooth transition.
With the introduction of this state-wide ban, California will earmark $2 million to help plastic bag manufacturers tool and make reusable bags. An annual saving of $265 million is projected, as is 175,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced annually.
First introduced in 1977 by supermarkets Kroger and Safeway, the modern-day polyethylene T-shirt shaped bag quickly became a staple in markets worldwide, replacing commonly used paper bags. Plastic bags were a major alternative to paper bags as it takes more than four times as much energy and resources to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture plastic bags.
However, both are threats to the environment, according to the Huffington Post, as both end up in landfills and oceans and take 15 to 1000 years to decompose. Thus, with the emergence of reusable bags, studies have shown that their use will reduce litter, air and water pollution. This ban would also decrease threats to marine life, landfills and the costs of cleaning plastic bag litter.