Senate Committee Approves Plastic Bag Bill

Senate Committee Approves Plastic Bag Bill

Sacramento, CA, April 17, 2013 (PBBR) - The Environmental Quality Committee of the California State Senate today approved SB 405 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).  SB 405 would phase out single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and pharmacies. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Each year in California, more than 14 billion single-use plastic bags are handed out by retailers. According to the US EPA, 88% of plastic bags and sacks are not recycled. In California, only 5% are recycled, according to CalRecycle.

The combined cost of single-use plastic bags to California consumers and state and local government for use, clean-up and disposal is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Many California communities have enacted ordinances banning plastic bags. In doing so, many of these communities have eliminated the significant costs associated with plastic bags, as well as substantially reduced the volume of bags entering their landfills.

"SB 405 will help protect our environment by phasing out single-use plastic bags in California. Single-use plastic bags fill our landfills, clog inland waterways, litter our coastline, and kill thousands of fish, marine mammals and seabirds,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

“Single-use plastic bags are not just a coastal issue. In our mountains, the winds blow discarded bags up into the trees, you can also find them in our rivers and streams, in our parks, and throughout our communities.  It is a statewide problem that deserves a statewide solution -- a solution that focuses on reducing the use of plastic bags,” Padilla said.

“California is known throughout the world for its policies to protect the environment. Many of our cities and counties have taken action and enacted local ordinances banning single-use bags.  It is time for a statewide policy,” said Padilla.

Both environmental and business groups are supporting SB 405 (Padilla), including Californians Against Waste, Environment California, Heal the Bay, Clean Seas Coalition, Azul, California League of Conservation Voters, Coastkeepers, Surfrider, California Grocers Association and the California Retailers Association.

SB 405 would do the following:

  • Beginning January 1, 2015, grocery stores and pharmacies would be prohibited from making available single-use plastic bags. If paper bags are offered to customers, they would have to include recycled content and customers would have to be charged the actual cost of providing the recycled paper bags.
  • Beginning July 1, 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores would be required to meet the same standard.
  • The bill would not pre-empt local ordinances already in place.

Plastics are estimated to compose 60-80% of all marine debris and 90% of all floating debris worldwide. Plastic bags not only clog inland waterways and fill our landfills, but are ingested by and entangle marine life.  The California Coastal Commission reports that “birds, fish and mammals often mistake plastic for food. Some birds even feed it to their young. With plastic filling their stomachs, animals have a false feeling of being full, and may die of starvation. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Even grey whales have been found dead with plastic bags and sheeting in their stomachs.”

A recent study by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego found evidence of plastic waste in more than 9% of the stomachs of fish collected in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, and estimate that fish who reside in the intermediate ocean depths ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic per year. According to a study commissioned by the US Marine Debris Monitoring Program, plastic bags are the most commonly found item on beaches.

“There is no such thing as a free bag. Single-use plastic bags increase costs to local governments for clean-up because so few of the bags are recycled. There is also a very real environmental cost to marine life, birds and other wildlife,” said Padilla. “Based on the experience of local jurisdictions that have enacted ordinances, we know a statewide policy would save local governments millions of dollars annually,” added Padilla.

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Cover photo: California State Capitol, Sacramento, California. Copyright 2006 Sascha Bruck. Licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License at wikipedia.org