Californians who haven't already should prepare to say a final sayonara to those flimsy plastic shopping bags dispensed freely at Safeway and CVS …

Following its passage in late August by the California Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed America’s first statewide ban on disposable plastic shopping bags into law. Although drought-districted Brown hadn’t made public his official position on the hot-button issue, it was anticipated that he would give the bag-banning bill, SB 270, his full blessing.

Declared Brown in a statement: “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. We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."

The polarizing bag ban, viewed as by supporters as an environmental triumph but deemed by California Republicans as a particularly draconian bit of nanny state lawmaking, will take effect on July 1, 2015 at supermarkets, pharmacies and big box retailers such as Target and Walmart across the state. Single-use plastic bags will disappear from convenience and liquor stores and other smaller businesses exactly a year later. Brown paper bags and sturdy reusable plastic carriers will be available to customers who don’t bring their own for 10 cents a pop. Plastic produce and meat bags will still remain readily available at grocery stores.

While a hugely symbolic victory, the day-to-day impact that the historic, litter-busting ban will have on many Californians isn’t actually that earth-shattering given that over 120 counties and cities (Los Angeles and San Francisco included but not San Diego) throughout the Golden State have already put the kibosh on the distribution of plastic shopping bags. 

In total, nearly a quarter of all Californians already live in areas where the landfill-clogging carryout bags have already vanished from checkout lines. These existing laws will be grandfathered into the new statewide law, a law that bill author Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) views as being a way of finishing up the good work already enacted by local jurisdictions.

"I applaud Governor Brown for signing SB 270 into law. He continues to lead our state forward with a commitment to sustainability, remarks Padilla. "A throw-away society is not sustainable. This new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year. Moving from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags is common sense. Governor Brown’s signature reflects our commitment to protect the environment and reduce government costs."

The bill includes $2 million in loans and grants that would help California bag-makers transition from manufacturing thin disposable plastic shopping bags to more durable ones that can be reused.

Still, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade group representing plastic bag manufacturers, is predictably none too pleased with Brown’s signing of the bill and plans to introduce a voter referendum that would repeal the law, one that it views as a scam, on the 2016 ballot. Lee Califf, the organization’s executive director, laments: “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.”

Additionally, many thrift-minded consumers who are mindful to reuse the bags at home in other ways — bathroom trashcan liners pet poop scoopers, etc. — aren’t entirely thrilled with the ban. 

It's estimated that a whopping 88 percent of the 13 billion plastic shopping bags distributed to consumers in California each year are not recycled with many of them entering local ecosystems. 

The distribution of single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retailers is also verboten throughout all of Hawaii, although on a local, not statewide, level. 

Via [ABC News]

Related on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.