California Bans Plastic Bags

Image via Flickr/ Great Beyond

On Tuesday, California became the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags after Governor Jerry Brown signed a statewide ban on the crinkly menace to the environment.

The ban, inspired by pollution in “streets and waterways,” covers plastic bag usage at grocery stores and convenience stores, according to the Associated Press. Plastic bags will be almost fully phased out at places like Walmart and Target next summer, and will disappear from convenience stores and pharmacies the year after.

Shoppers will, however, still be allowed to use plastic bags for fruits, vegetables and meats.

Fascinatingly, the ban has caused a “national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers” to seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, according to the AP. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization that actually exists and whose website claims that plastic bags are the “environmental choice,” issued a recent statement in which APBA Executive Director Lee Califf derides the results of “what happens when greedy special interests and bad government collide in the policymaking process.”

“Senator [Alex] Padilla’s bill was never legislation about the environment. It was 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,” said Califf.

The bill includes a 10-cent fee for paper bags, as well as a fee waiver for customers on public assistance.

The Sacramento Bee writes that customers will now have to either buy a reusable bag or pay the 10 cents for a paper bag or a “multiuse plastic carrier” that meets state durability standards.

There’s no word on whether or not regular plastic bags will count as reusable bags, but seeing as how the Los Angeles Department of Public Works reports that about 500 billion traditional plastic bags are used worldwide each year — and take about 300 years to break down into toxic particles — perhaps newer reusable bags are the way to go.