California supermarkets banned from using single-use plastic bags

California supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies will be banned from using single-use plastic bags starting in July 2015.

Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocers and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, then convenience stores and pharmacies will fall under the prohibition in 2016.

The law does not apply to plastic sacks used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers and it allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.

State Sen. Alex Padilla credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have enacted such bans.

California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, an action intended to curb pollution in streets and waterways.

Dozens of U.S. cities and other local governments have already banned plastic bags, starting with San Francisco in 2007. Some, such as Washington, D.C., impose a 5-cent surcharge on consumers who use the bags.Hawaii is on track to have a de facto statewide ban, with prohibitions approved in all counties.

A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015.

Other states are considering strategies to reduce the number of plastic carry-out bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets, with some targeting paper bags as well. Regulating throw-away bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them, as well as reducing reliance on landfills for waste management.
In 2009, the District of Columbia enacted a law to ban the distribution of disposable, non-recyclable plastic carry-out bags and set a fee of 5 cents for distribution of all other disposable bags.

In 2009, North Carolina proscribed plastic bags for the Outer Banks, a chain of coast area barrier islands, but in 2011, legislation temporarily suspended that ban due to a tornado that hit Dunn, North Carolina, which is the major distribution center for paper bags in the area. The ban has yet to be restored.

Four states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania— are considering a fee or tax on the distribution of bags which a shopper will have to pay, either directly or indirectly, with proposed fees ranging from 1 cent to 15 cents per bag.

In November 2011, a bill was introduced to the New Jersey Legislature that would have imposed a 10 cent fee on plastic carryout bags starting in January 2013 and required that all stores provide only plastic bags that may be composted or recyclable paper sacks to customers by January 2015. The bill has languished in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

In 2007, New Jersey lawmakers proposed a ban on retail bags, but the measure was not approved.

In November 2009, “The Plastic Carryout Bag Reduction Act” was introduced by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen, Passaic), who subsequently resigned because her family moved to Florida. The act would have imposed a two-cent fee on every plastic carryout bag provided to a customer and require stores to provide the opportunity for customers to purchase a reusable bag.

A measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Senator Linda R. Greenstein would require retail store operators to establish in-store recycling programs that provide opportunities for customers to return clean plastic carryout bags, while Assemblyman John F. McKeon would provide for decrease and eventual ban on use of non-compostable plastic grocery bags.

Those bills are currently awaiting legislative action.


Another bill signed by Brown on Tuesday made California the first state that allows family members to ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat.

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