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jerrybrownOn Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270, making his state the first in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. 

The ban has two phases, the first of which will go into effect on July 2015. From that date forward, grocery stores and pharmacies will be prohibited from offering single-use plastic bags to customers. On July 2016, the ban will extend to convenience stores and liquor stores as well.

Tuesday’s signing marks the end of a long campaign for environmental groups like Heal the Bay, which sees plastic bags as a “gateway” issue for “getting people to think more sustainably in other areas of their life.”

While convenient, the 10 billion plastic bags used in California every year require millions of dollars in cleanup costs. “Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes,” said Senator Alex Padilla (D-LA), who sponsored the bill.

Senator Padilla attempted to pass a plastic bag ban last year but was opposed by strong lobbying from plastic bag manufacturers. In response, SB 270 provides $2 million in loans to manufacturers to allow them to transition into making reusable bags.

Political wonks questioned whether Governor Brown, a moderate, would be willing to sign such a green-focused bill in an election year, but Brown was open about his support for the ban in a campaign debate held earlier this month. “I’ll tell you why I’m going to sign it,” he said. “There are about 50 cities with their own plastic bag ban, and that’s causing a lot of confusion.

“This is a compromise,” he added. “It’s taking into account the needs of the environment, and the needs of the economy and the needs of the grocers.”

Still, Brown waited until the very last day to sign SB 270 into law. After September 30, it would have expired without his signature.

“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 statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

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  1. 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 statement. We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last. Plastic and paper bag manufacturers opposed to the legislation say it will result in lost manufacturing jobs in California.

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