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California May Say Goodbye to Plastic Grocery Bags

California is one step closer to becoming the first state to ban free plastic bags in supermarkets and grocery stores; about 100 cities in California and other municipalities around the country have instituted such bans.

The California State Assembly voted 44-29 this week in favor of a bill that would prohibit grocery stores from giving customers free plastic bags with purchases, rather, supermarkets would be required to sell paper or compostable plastic bags for the customers’ items at 10 cents per bag. The bill also gives $2 million in funding to local bag manufacturers to produce reusable bags. The bill now moves on to the State Senate, which has until Sunday to pass it into law.

If passed, the ban would take effect for supermarkets and large pharmacies in 2015 and in convenience stores in 2016.

Plastic bags, which are cheaper for grocers to use than paper bags, have long come under fire from environmental groups that have raised concerns about recyclability and the danger to marine life and the country’s waterways. Opponents to the California bill have criticized the 10-cent fee as essentially another consumer tax as the funds will go back to the grocers rather than to the community.

"We live in a throw-away society," said Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward. "What this bill does is to make an effort to do one little thing: Get people to use reusable bags."

By Katie Martin, Progressive Grocer Independent Editor-in-Chief

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