Calif. Plastic Bag Ban Gets Closer to Reality

New legislation that would enact a statewide plastic-bag ban passed out of a California State Assembly committee Friday and is expected to be taken up by full assembly June 4.

If passed and signed into law by the governor, Assembly Bill 1998 (D-Brownley) would (as of January 1, 2012) prohibit supermarkets, larger pharmacies, and convenience stores from distributing single-use bags made of plastic, paper, or other materials and require the retailer to offer for sale reusable bags.

"AB 1998 creates a uniform, statewide standard to help level the playing field among food retailers," said California Grocers Association president Ronald Fong. "It addresses the issue of single-use carryout bags across all California jurisdictions and provides the most environmental gain with the least competitive disruption for retailers."

The bill would require affected stores to provide reusable bags for sale or free distribution and would pre-empt local ordinances that regulate bags at those retailers subject to the state law.

Fong commended Assembly Member Julia Brownley for her leadership role in rallying business, lawmakers and environmentalists support. "This historic legislation demonstrates California's continued leadership role in environmental issues," he said. "The same is true for the grocery industry. I like to think that grocers were 'green' when it was just a color."

The industry's ongoing sustainability efforts include recycling plastic, paper, cardboard, wood, green waste and animal products, as well as composting. In addition, the industry supported Assembly Bill 2449, the plastic carryout bag recycling bill that became law in 2007.

While changing consumer behavior will be challenging, Fong believes Californians will embrace the change. "Like AB 2449, our industry will do all it can to educate consumers to the benefits of reusable bags,” he noted.
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