California passes plastic bag ban, would be first such law in U.S

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California Passes Plastic Bag Ban

By AARON MENDELSON

(Reuters) - The California state legislature enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags on Friday near the end of its two-year session, a measure that if signed into law would become the first of its kind in America.

A number of cities and counties in California and other U.S. states, including Hawaii's Maui County, have made it illegal for grocery stores to pack purchases in plastic. But at the state level, opposition from plastic bag makers has usually prevailed.

The California Senate voted 22-15 for the bill, which must be signed into law by Sept. 30 by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has not signaled a position on the measure.

"Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes," said state Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the bill.

Padilla backed a similar measure last year but it failed by three votes. The fate of this bill was uncertain until the waning hours of the session after falling three votes short in the state's Assembly on Monday.

But after picking up the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the bill passed a second vote in the Assembly.

The measure would ban grocery stores from handing out single-use grocery bags with customers' purchases, and provide money to local plastic bag companies to retool to make heavier, multiple-use bags that customers could buy.

Environmentalists have pushed for banning plastic bags, which are cheaper for supermarkets to use than paper bags, but create mountains of trash that is difficult to recycle. In California, there is particular concern that the bags, when swept out to sea, could harm ocean life.

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California passes plastic bag ban, would be first such law in U.S
In this photo taken Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, a plastic shopping bag liters the roadside in Sacramento, Calif. In an effort to reduce the cluttering of California, in 2006 the state Legislature passed a law requiring grocery stores and other large retailers to give consumers an easy way of returning used bags. Seven years later it's virtually impossible to know how the law it working. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, urged lawmakers to reject legislation that would make California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. By a 22-15 vote, the Senate approved SB270, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, right, and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, listens to the debate over his bill that would make California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. By a 22-15 vote, the Senate approved SB270 and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
State Senators Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, left, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, celebrate after lawmakers approved Padilla's bill to ban single-use plastic bags at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. By a 22-15 vote, the Senate approved SB270 that makes California the first state to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill now goes to Gov Jerry Brown. De Leon had previously opposed the bill, but gave his support after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, plastic single-use bags are carried past the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. The state Assembly rejected legislation that would make California the first in the U.S. to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. SB270, by state Sen. Alex Padilla, failed Monday on a 37-33 vote after an hour-long debate. It can be heard again this week. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Conveyors carry mixed plastic into a device that will shred recycle them, at a news conference to announce a possible agreement in the California legislature that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016, at a plastics recycling plant in Vernon, Calif., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Lawmakers in Sacramento have debated similar proposals for years, facing opposition from manufacturers that produce billions of plastic shopping bags each year. The agreement calls for using $2 million for loans and grants that could help those companies retrain workers and convert to manufacturing "a new generation of reusable bags with the smallest environmental footprint," a summary of the legislation said. Los Angeles and nearly 100 other cities and counties in the state have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags at stores. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A bin with raw recycled plastic, awaiting dumping into a conveyor that will convert it into pellets, is behind participants at a news conference to announce a possible agreement in the California legislature that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016, at a plastics recycling plant in Vernon, Calif., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Lawmakers in Sacramento have debated similar proposals for years, facing opposition from manufacturers that produce billions of plastic shopping bags each year. The agreement calls for using $2 million for loans and grants that could help those companies retrain workers and convert to manufacturing "a new generation of reusable bags with the smallest environmental footprint," a summary of the legislation said. Los Angeles and nearly 100 other cities and counties in the state have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags at stores. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A homeless man bundled up in plastic bags faces the cold weather in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
California State Sens. Kevin DeLeon, center, and Alex Padilla speak at a news conference to announce a possible agreement in the California legislature that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016, at a plastics recycling center in Vernon, Calif., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Lawmakers in Sacramento have debated similar proposals for years, facing opposition from manufacturers that produce billions of plastic shopping bags each year. The agreement calls for using $2 million for loans and grants that could help those companies retrain workers and convert to manufacturing "a new generation of reusable bags with the smallest environmental footprint," a summary of the legislation said. Los Angeles and nearly 100 other cities and counties in the state have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags at stores. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
California State Sen. Kevin DeLeon speaks at a news conference to announce a possible agreement in the California legislature that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016, at a plastics recycling plant in Vernon, Calif., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Meredith McCarthy and her son Jasper Ward, 7, retrieve a plastic bottle as volunteers with Heal The Bay's storm response team remove snack-food packaging, plastic drink containers, single-use bags and other debris washed into the ocean from the Pico-Kenter outfall, a storm drain that serves a large part of the Westside of Los Angeles, at Santa Monica Beach, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Heavy rains will flush accumulated trash into the ocean, where it becomes a health hazard to humans and sea life. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A woman walks with a plastic bag in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. A bill to make California the first in the nation to impose a statewide ban on plastic bags at certain retailers passed a key legislative committee on Wednesday, but the legislation faces staunch opposition from bag manufacturers working to stem a flood of local bans meant to end clutter in landfills and beaches. (AP Photo)
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After the defeat of his earlier bill, Padilla won the support of some California-based bag makers by including the funding for retooling. But in recent months, out-of-state manufacturers campaigned against the bill, even producing television advertisements targeting Padilla, who is running for secretary of state.

Cathy Browne, general manager at Crown Poly, a plastic bag manufacturer in Huntington Park, California, said the bill would lead to layoffs at companies like hers.

More than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, according to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an advocacy group supporting the bill.

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