The continuing effort to enact statewide bans in California on single-use plastic carryout bags and expanded polystyrene takeout food containers has once again failed to gather enough support in the legislature.
The California Legislature ended its session Aug. 31 without a Senate vote on a proposed plastic bag ban and with the Assembly voting 45-26 against the proposed ban on PS containers. That's the fourth straight year that a PS ban has failed and the sixth straight year that a plastic bag ban has failed.
However, state legislators did extend state-mandated plastic bag recycling until 2020 and added a provision allowing local governments to place fees on plastic bags.
Currently, 53 California communities have full bans on EPS takeout containers. Another 12 have PS bans that apply only to city facilities and city events.
The absence of statewide legislation has led 41 California cities and seven counties to ban plastic bags. Those communities cover geographic areas that represent 16 percent of the state's population, according to Californians Against Waste.
In addition, the California Grocers Association, which had lobbied for the statewide plastic bag ban, said it expects at least 22 more California communities to ban plastic bags by the end of the year.
“If the high number of bag bans at the local level … becomes reality, there may be no need for the legislature to consider legislation next year [to ban plastic bags] because most major cities in California may have already taken the step of banning bags,” said Laurie Hansen Sheets, executive director and legislative director of the Western Plastics Association, in the September WPA newsletter.
Bag makers might want to consider legislation in 2013 to ensure their products can still be used at local levels, she said.
“The WPA will be facing more issues in California, and other states, come January when the rest of the legislatures come back into session,” Hansen wrote.
“Beyond film/bags [and] polystyrene bans, we will be facing mandatory extended producer responsibility proposals, recycling mandates [and] take-back initiatives.”
Nationwide, the number of communities in the U.S. with plastic bag bans now totals 82, including Homer, Alaska, which enacted a ban on single-use plastic bags Aug. 27 that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Plastic bag bans are now in place in three of the 14 largest and five of the 29 largest cities in the United States — San Francisco; San Jose; Austin, Texas; Seattle and Portland, Ore.
In addition, the nation's fourth-largest city, Houston, is currently considering a bag-ban proposal, and Los Angeles — the nation's second-largest city, with a population of 4 million — this summer set in motion a plan to ban plastic bags.
More than half of the plastic bag bans in the U.S. — 44 — have been enacted this year.