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California Senate Rejects Bill to Ban Plastic Bags

A bill that would have phased out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores and certain other retail establishments was defeated May 30, 2013, when the state Senate voted 18 to 17 in favor of the measure, three votes short of the 21 votes needed for passage. The first phase of the California 2013 legislative session ended May 31, which was the last day for bills to be passed out of the house of origin.


Introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), SB 405 would have prohibited grocery stores and pharmacies with more than $ 2 million annual sales and at least 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space from making single-use plastic bags available, and required that paper bags offered to customers include recycled content, beginning January 1, 2015. The same restrictions would have applied to convenience stores and liquor stores beginning July 1, 2016. In addition, the bill would not have pre-empted local ordinances already in place but would have prohibited new ones after January 1, 2014.


Noting that SB 405 was defeated by a smaller margin then previous attempts to ban plastic bags over the past five years, Padilla predicted that it is only a matter of time before a state-wide policy is enacted. Approximately 70 local governments throughout California have adopted ordinances banning plastic bags, including San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, Santa Clara County, and Alameda County.


A senate analysis of SB 405 pointed out, however, that the replacement of single-use plastic bags with reusable grocery bags may have negative public health implications. It referenced a 2012 study, by Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, from University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University, respectively, which showed that emergency-room admissions related to E. coli, salmonella, and other bacterial infections increased in San Francisco after the plastic bag ban in that city became effective. Nearby counties did not show a similar increase during the same time period. The analysis added that similar effects were found in other California local jurisdictions that adopted similar ordinances.