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Plastic bags remain under fire in California

By: Gayle S. Putrich

March 1, 2013

WASHINGTON — While California legislators plan to once again consider a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags across the state, local communities are continuing to plow ahead with their own bag ordinances.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D) has introduced legislation that would prohibit large retail stores in California from providing single-use carryout bags to customers beginning in 2015. Starting in July 2016, the ban would extend to convenience stores and other small businesses.

Padilla's effort would be the fifth attempt at a state-wide bag ban, though this round of legislation does have broader support than previous measures, and is being introduced by a seasoned, Latino legislator from an urban district and with the blessing of groups such as the California Grocers' Association.

Meanwhile, a Sacramento City Council subcommittee voted to direct its staff to draw up an ordinance that would ban plastic bags in the California capitol city. The plan would be for the ban to apply to grocery stores, department stores and large chain retailers that sell food as well as other goods, such as Target and Walgreens, but offer smaller and locally owned stores an exemption. The stores would be permitted to charge customers for paper bags; most local ordinances in California include a similar 5- or 10-cent charge.

San Carlos, Calif., a city about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose in San Mateo County, voted in its own ban Feb. 26. Customers will initially pay 10 cents for a paper bag, but that charge will jump to 25 cents in 2015. A city official emphasized that the ban is not just about plastic bags, but about reducing consumption in general.

The City Council in neighboring Redwood City will take up its own bag ban measure later this month. A ban passed last year in West Hollywood went into effect last week, with city officials taking to Twitter and other social media to remind shoppers to bring reusable bags with them.

Environmental group Californians Against Waste estimates as much as one-third of the state's citizens currently live somewhere that has enacted some version of plastic bag legislation.