Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways.
A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015.
Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, (D-Los Angeles), credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have such bans.
The law marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed plastic bag bans in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle. Hawaii is also on track to have a de-facto statewide ban, with all counties approving prohibitions.
“This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a signing statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”
Plastic bag manufacturers have aggressively pushed back through their trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which aired commercials in California blasting the ban as a cash-giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
“If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets,” Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.
Padilla, the bill’s author, said Californians would reject a referendum effort and quickly adapt their behavior to help the environment.
“For those folks concerned about the 10 cent fee that may be charged for paper, the simple elegant solution is to bring a reusable bag to the store,” Padilla said.
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico also have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.