California May Ban Plastic Grocery Bags

California could become the first state in the nation to institute a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags under a compromise with business leaders, a state senator behind the proposal said on Friday

Numerous cities in California and other states, including Maui County and a number of Hawaiian municipalities, have already made it illegal for grocery stores to pack consumer purchases in plastic

But if passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, the most populous U.S. state would become the first to enact a statewide ban, said state Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat.

Environmentalists have pushed hard for banning plastic bags, which are cheaper for supermarkets to use than paper bags but create mountains of trash that are difficult to recycle. In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, could cause injury to ocean life

“We see plastic bags in our parks, plastic bags in our rivers,” Padilla said. “By banning them, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for local government, and I think it’s good for the economy.”

Padilla’s bid for a statewide ban fell only three votes short of passage last year, largely because of opposition by lawmakers with plastic bag manufacturers in their districts. The trade group representing grocers had signed on to the bill, believing that a single statewide standard would be easier to comply with than a patchwork of rules enacted from city to city, the senator said.

Re-tooling factories

In negotiations that continued into the evening on Thursday, Padilla said he and two lawmakers with manufacturers in their districts met with them and other business leaders to craft a deal that would allow the legislation to move forward

Now, instead of simply banning the bags, the state would provide about $2 million in grants to manufacturers who want to re-tool, either to make paper sacks or re-usable plastic ones that customers can buy, Padilla said.

His bill, whose compromise language had not yet been introduced on Friday, would impose a 10-cent-per-bag fee on consumers who wish to buy paper sacks. Re-usable plastic bags — made of thicker often recycled material — are already available for purchase in many stores.

But it would not pre-empt existing bag ordinances in cities such as Los Angeles, West Hollywood and San Francisco, which have already enacted their own rules.

The announcement was set to be held at a plant owned by Command Packaging in the industrial suburb of Vernon, east of downtown Los Angeles. The company recently re-tooled a plant in Salinas to produce plastic bags with handles that can be sold for consumer use, adding 100 jobs.

“California’s grocers stand ready to do our part to make California a global leader in the shift away from single-use plastic grocery bags,” Ronald Fong, President and CEO of California Grocers Association, said in a news release. “There is no reason whatsoever now that California cannot finally make this measure a reality.”

Reprinted from Voice of America (1/24/2014)

CGA President Ron Fong Press Conference Statement:

Good morning. Thank you, senators, for your hard work on this issue.

Ron FongToday is an extraordinary day for California. These three leaders have come together to sponsor a bill that will foster innovation, protect businesses and preserve our communities and quality of life

More than 90 cities and counties have enacted single-use plastic bag bans with great success. But these local jurisdictions and those businesses within them need, and deserve, clear and consistent statewide direction to navigate these complexities.

Our employees and customers also deserve the consistency a statewide bill would create. SB 270 will provide this.

Moving our economy and society toward reusable bags is the solution. This issue has been analyzed, tested and debated for years. We know what works. We know what does not.

We have listened to the needs of workers, businesses, local governments and the environmental community. This bill is good for all of California.

Grocery stores – who I am here to represent today – are quite literally on the front line of this change. We know that businesses cannot thrive, or even survive, without constantly evaluating, adapting and innovating. That is why we have encouraged reusable bag use throughout California.

We encourage California entrepreneurs to become part of a new, clean economy that creates new jobs. Many companies already are training employees and building facilities to manufacture reusable grocery bags.

Since the Gold Rush, California has been a shining beacon of innovation, entrepreneurship and stewardship. It is time for California to once again do what it does best – act as a global leader.

SB 270 will allow us to do that. For that, we thank these leaders and urge our legislators and the governor to approve this important measure.