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California Legislature Passes Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban

California could become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags under legislation passed by both the California Assembly and Senate on August 28 and 29, respectively. SB 270, if signed by Governor Jerry Brown, would phase out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies. The governor has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

SB 270 prohibits grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail outlets with more than 10,000 sq. ft. of space from offering single-use plastic bags beginning July 1, 2015; convenience stores and liquor stores would be prohibited from offering single-use plastic bags beginning July 1, 2016. The legislation does allow stores to provide consumers with reusable grocery bags or recycled paper bags at a cost of not less than $0.10 each. Retail outlets will retain the money collected. The reusable grocery bags must be washable, not contain any toxic materials, and meet federal regulations on recyclable claims if they are recyclable. They also must have a volume capacity of at least 15 liters, be able to be reused at least 125 times, and include specified information that is visible to the consumer, including manufacturer information and eligibility for recycling.

A California Senate analysis of the bill notes that 87 cities and counties throughout the state have already adopted ordinances banning bags. This bill does not preempt existing ordinances but does preempt local ordinances adopted after September 1, 2014. It also establishes fines for violation of the law that can be collected by a city, county, or the state. Finally, the bill provides up to $2 million in competitive loans for the creation and retention of jobs in the state to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags.

The governor has not indicated if he will sign the bill. His opponent in the California gubernatorial race, though, Neel Kashkari, called the effort to ban plastic bags in the state "embarrassing" on Twitter.