California will be the first state to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to phase them out at supermarkets, grocery stores and other retail establishments. Brown’s enactment of the bill in the largest U.S. state is a victory for environmentalists and validation for cities that have already instituted plastic-bag bans.
“This bill is a step in the right direction,” Brown wrote in a signing message, urging other states to follow. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”
Though more than 100 California municipalities already have plastic bag bans, Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, the bill’s advocate, is proud of the first statewide ban. “California policymakers have made a clear and strong statement in enacting the bag ban. … If a product is too costly to society and the environment, California is prepared to move to eliminate it,” he said in a press release. Establishments that do not eliminate the use of plastic bags will be subject to fines up to $5,000.
Not everyone is celebrating. According to the Sacramento Bee, a group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance is collecting signatures to get the new law overturned through a referendum. “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,” the group wrote in a statement. As it stands, establishments can offer paper bag alternatives to the plastic bags -- but at a fee of 10 cents apiece to customers. The other alternative for consumers is to invest in a reusable bag.
The group termed the new legislation a “backroom 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.”