Plastic litter accumulates in streets and gutters throughout the country, but in California plastic bags frequently are washed into its vast coastline. There it can clog sewers and waterways and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Sea turtles often eat the plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish, and can starve to death as the plastic fills their stomachs and fails to pass through their bodies. On land, discarded plastic requires statewide cleanup efforts, draining valuable dollars from the budget.
If passed, SB270 would be the country’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The law would first take effect in July 2015, prohibiting grocery stores and pharmacies from providing single-use plastic bags. The next year, July 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores would also be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags.
According to Forbes, about 100 jurisdictions throughout California have already passed similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On Monday, it appeared the bill would not pass the assembly, as it lost the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The union was concerned by a provision in the bill that allows grocery stores to offer paper and reusable bags for a minimum 10-cent fee. The union returned its support on Wednesday after securing an agreement with Safeway supermarkets, prompting seven Democrats who had initially withheld their votes to vote “aye” on the bill.
A similar proposal was rejected by state legislators in 2013. This time, advocates were able to win greater Democratic support by including a measure that provides up to $2 million in competitive loans to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags.