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Another California town passes bag ban; fate of Illinois bill still uncertain

By: Mike Verespej

August 22, 2012

WASHINGTON (Aug. 22, 12:25 p.m. ET) — Another California city has banned single-use plastic carryout bags, bringing the number of plastic bag bans in the United States to 81 — with more than half of them, 43, enacted this year.

The ban in West Hollywood — a community of 35,000 just east of Beverly Hills — will go into effect in late February 2013 for retail stores with 10,000 or more square feet, and six months after that for all other retailers.

The ban, enacted Aug. 20, does not include plastic bags handed out at farmers markets, produce bags or plastic bags used for prepared take-out foods and liquids. The law further requires stores to charge customers 10 cents for paper bags.

In addition to the 81 plastic bag bans nationwide, three other U.S. communities — Montgomery County, Md.; Aspen, Colo., and Washington, D.C. — have taxes on plastic carryout bags.

However, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers has filed a lawsuit to overturn the 20-cent fee on plastic bags that went into effect May 1 in Aspen, a town of 6,600 with two grocery stores that are affected by the fee.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 21 in Pitkin County District Court in Colorado, contends that the fee is really a tax and is unconstitutional because state law requires a public vote before any local government can levy new taxes.

Separately, a plastic bag recycling bill in Illinois has yet to be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn with the Aug. 28 deadline for his decision fast approaching.

The bill, which was approved by the Illinois legislature, would ban all communities in that state except Chicago from banning single-use plastic bags. The bill has attracted nationwide attention — even from organizations such as Californians Against Waste, which normally only focuses its attention on California state issues and legislation.

“Don't wait any longer to ask him [Quinn] to veto the bill,” CAW said in a recent posting on its website. “If you don't live in Illinois, pass this along to your friends and family who are Illinois residents.

“Recycling of plastic bags doesn't work,” continued the post. “In California, despite having a collection bin in every large grocery store statewide, the last reported recycling rate of plastic grocery bags was only 3 percent.”

In May, CAW and five other California organizations—- the Campaign for Recycling, the Bag It Town Program, the Surfrider Foundation, the Seventh Generation Advisors, and the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education — took the unusual step for them of issuing a statement of opposition to the Illinois law.