California Bans the Bag

October, 2014

It’s been a long time coming, but after years of advocacy, negotiation and tireless activism, common sense has defeated special interests—California seems to have finally banned single-use plastic bags. The apparent victory—Governor Jerry Brown still needed to sign the bill at Econews press time—came at the very end of the state’s legislative session, passing the Senate 22-15 after squeaking through the Assembly days prior.

According to Californian Against Waste, an average of 400 plastic bags are used per second in the state. Most of those end up as litter, costing an average of $11 per California resident. So while the new measure includes a small fee for paper or reusable bags, the pending economic benefits are substantial.

For wildlife, single-use plastic bags have long meant a painful death. Sea turtles, marine mammals and birds, in particular, have suffered for years from problems relating to ingestion and strangulation. Anyone who drives or bikes alongside the highways has witnessed plastic bags stuck in bushes, caught on fences or simply littering the roadside on their way to the bay and ocean. Beach cleanup data confirms that plastic bags have consistently been one of the most littered items in our state.

Despite all that—and the clear alternatives available—the plastic bag lobby has managed to throw enough money at fighting the various bills over the years to prevent legislation. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, a longtime champion of banning the bag, carried the legislation and, in the Sacramento Bee, noted the “groundswell of support” throughout the state. Over 80 California cities and counties, including Arcata, have banned the bag.

Most grocers have joined with environmentalists in supporting a bag ban, citing cost savings and consistency. We’re pleased to see that this widespread support for this long overdue action that is critical for our environment, economy and wildlife health has finally come to fruition.


UPDATE: Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 30, 2014!
Read a press release from Californians Against Waste here.