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California Lawmakers Adopt Ban on Plastic Shopping Bags

Littered Plastic Bag in Los Angeles
A single-use plastic bag is washed up from a storm drain in the Los Angeles River in Los Angeles, California, on June 24, 2014. Photographer: Kevork Djansezian/Bloomberg

California lawmakers voted to make the most populous state the first to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and impose a 10-cent charge for paper ones.

The fee, criticized by opponents of the bill as a $1 billion windfall for grocery stores, is intended to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. If Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signs the measure, the law would take effect in July 2015. Brown hasn’t said what he intends to do.

“A throw-away society is not sustainable,” state Senator Alex Padilla, a Pacoima Democrat who wrote the bill, said in a statement after the vote late yesterday. “This is good for California and reflects our values as a state that cares about the environment, sea life and wildlife.”

About 14 billion flimsy plastic bags a year are distributed in California. Environmentalists have pressed to do away with them, saying they litter the landscape and threaten animals, particularly in the sea, where they can be mistaken for food. Los Angeles and San Francisco are among more than 100 cities and counties that already outlaw them. California would be the first to set a statewide ban.

“Jobs are going to be lost because of this legislation,” said Senator Ted Gaines, a Roseville Republican. “This is a job loss because of government action. It’s not a job loss because of competition.”

Lobbying Spending

Retailers and grocers spent $546,000 lobbying on legislation in the first half of the year, while paper and plastic bag manufacturers devoted $204,000, according to filings with the secretary of state’s office.

Thirteen bills have failed in California since 2007 to curb or ban use of the bags.

Outside California, cities including Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have forbidden single-use plastic bags, as have all four populated counties in Hawaii.

More than two dozen states are debating bans or taxes on plastic shopping bags, according to Bag the Ban, a website financed by Hilex Poly Co. in Hartsville, South Carolina. The company, which makes plastic bags, is a unit of Wind Point Partners LP, a Chicago-based private equity firm.

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