Plastic Bag

By Jeremy B. White
jwhite@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014 – 9:35 am

Time to invest in a reusable shopping bag.

Concluding the long odyssey of one of the most contentious bills of 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation phasing out the single-use plastic bags that grocery stores and other retailers use to package products at the checkout line. Brown’s assent hands a sweeping victory to environmentalists and vindicates the scores of cities and counties that have already banned bags.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Minutes after Brown announced signing the bill, an industry group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance vowed to begin collecting signatures in an effort to overturn the law via a referendum on the 2016 ballot. They filed a request for title and summary later in the day.

“Our research confirms that the vast majority of California voters are opposed to legislation that bans recyclable plastic bags and allows grocers to charge and keep fees on other bags,” a release from the organization said, denouncing the legislation as “a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit – all under the guise of environmentalism.”

A key advocate for the bill dismissed the referendum threat. About a third of California’s residents already live under local bag bans, according to Californians Against Waste executive director Mark Murray, who argued that reversing the state ban would require persuading some of the millions of Californians already accustomed to the policy.

“The more the public sees the policy, the more they like it,” said Murray, whose organization sponsored the state legislation. “Once it’s implemented in your community, your support for it grows.”

Implementing the law will reverberate through multiple industries, shifting how retailers and manufacturers do business. Consumers will face a choice: Purchase a reusable bag, or pay at least 10 cents for a paper bag or a multiuse plastic carrier that meets a set of state durability standards.

It is not a new concept. There is precedent in the more than 100 municipalities across the state that have already enacted similar prohibitions after concluding that the amount of waste generated by plastic bags outweighs the convenience. Murray said the experiment has unfolded on the local level with few hitches.

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