California is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban plastic shopping bags, a move hailed by environmentalists and grocers alike. The state Senate approved the ban on Friday, sending it to Gov. ArnoldSchwarzenegger’s office for his signature. Schwarzenegger praised the bill’s passage, calling it “a great victory for our environment.”
The California Assembly passed the legislation on Wednesday, and, if signed into law, it would prohibit pharmacies, grocery, liquor and convenience stores from giving out plastic bags and require alternative retainers for goods. Stores would be required to sell paper bags for at least 5 cents each. The ultimate goal is for consumers to buy reusable bags that cost about $1 each. “Under this bill, if shoppers forget their reusable bags, they will be able to purchase a recycled paper bag made of 40 percent post-consumer material for a reasonable cost,” Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, told NBC affiliate KNTV. Other towns and cities across the U.S. have already placed restrictions on plastic bags, including an outright ban in larger retail stores by three counties in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. About 20 other California cities are considering similar laws.
Plastics bags are not biodegradable, meaning they stay for a long time in landfills and oceans. The goal is to reduce their accumulation, but there are those who argue some can’t afford to pay for paper bags.