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California tries bag ban, again

By: Gayle S. Putrich

January 24, 2014

Is it the ninth time that's the charm? California legislators are hoping so, as they embark on yet another attempt at becoming the first to enact a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) on Jan. 24 at Command Packaging — a polyethylene bag and packaging manufacturer in Vernon, Calif. that opposed last year's version.

This time, the proposal seeks to addresses industry opposition to previous bag ban measures by creating a $2 million grant pool from state recycling funds. Plastic bag makers would be able to apply for grants to retrain workers or reorganize operations to make bags that would meet the new state-wide requirements.

Starting in July 1, 2015, Californians would pay at least 10 cents at grocery stores for each reusable plastic or recycled paper bag from the grocery store, and single-use plastic bags would be prohibited under the bill. "Reusable" bags would be defined as those rated for 125 uses and made of at least 20 percent recycled plastic at first, ultimately going up to 40 percent recycled content. In 2016, the prohibition would be extended to pharmacies and liquor stores.

Last year, a bill authored by Padilla would have phased-out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies. It fell three votes short of the 21 needed for passage in the state Senate.

Sens. Kevin deLeon (D-Los Angeles) and Ricado Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who led the opposition to Padilla's bill last year, are listed as supporters of the revised measure, as are perennial bag ban supporters Californians Against Waste.

But the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), the trade association representing the American plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry, is not as easily swayed.

"The plastic bag manufacturing industry is in no way supportive of this so-called 'deal' between Sens. Padilla and deLeon that's being reported, and we remain strongly opposed to this or any bill that seeks to ban the 100 percent-recyclable product our workers — including 2,000 Californians — make every day," said APBA Chairman Mark Daniels.

"While we've seen no actual bill language, the legislation announced today appears no different than anything we've seen in the past — it's yet another job-killing, big-grocer cash grab masquerading as an environmental bill. We are committed to working with legislators and stakeholders to find a workable solution that is environmentally responsible and protects jobs — but this bill, as described, totally misses the mark."

Plastic bag bans or taxes are already in effect in more than 80 counties and municipalities in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.