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California Passes the First State-Wide Plastic Bag Ban

California has become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags under legislation signed by Governor Edmund G "Jerry" Brown Jr. on September 30, 2014. SB 270 prohibits grocery stores and pharmacies from distributing single-use plastic bags after July 2015 and expands the ban to convenience stores and liquor stores in July 2016.

SB 270, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), 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.

More than 120 local governments in California have already adopted ordinances banning single-use bags, according to a press release issued by the governor's office. The legislation 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.