California, hallowed birthplace of the Frisbee, the Cobb salad, and the medical marijuana dispensary, may soon be able to claim bragging rights for introducing the rest of the United States to another notable "first" as the first state to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags from grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, liquor stores and other retail businesses where the landfill-clogging carriers are frequently handed out.

While disposable bag bans have been previously enacted in a handful of (heavily West Coast) cities (SeattleLos Angeles, San Francisco, et al.) and counties (pretty much every county in Hawaii), a statewide kibosh on the use of the ocean-polluting, infrequently recycled plastic sacks has yet to be passed by U.S. lawmakers. Late last week, the California Senate did just that with the approval of a measure that would require retailers to phase out single-use plastic bags and instead offer customers paper bags or reusable plastics for 10 cents a pop if they fail to bring their own.

The bill was passed by the California Senate with a 22-15 vote.

Next, the bag-banning bill, geared to put a dent in plastic-based litter, will land on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. Brown's office states that he has not taken an official position on the hot-button issue.

If signed into law by Brown, the ban would take effect on July 1, 2015 at pharmacies and grocery stores across the state. Liquor and convenience stores would be required to give plastic bags the boot exactly one year later.

Although such a ban might seem drastic, draconian and terribly inconvenient to some ("I'm quite frankly offended by having the state dictate what we need and don’t need in our lives," lamented Republican Sen. Ted Gaines), it would not impose that big of earth-shattering change in California. After all, over 100 cities and counties across the severely parched state have already instituted plastic bag bans. The bill's author, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) views the statewide ban as a means of finishing up the good work already done by local jurisdictions, which, as the Los Angeles Times points out, would be grandfathered in.

"We have seen a groundswell of action in this direction at the local level. But this is a statewide problem meriting a statewide solution."

A similar bill introduced by Padilla was struck down in 2013.

In addition to some Republicans who view doing away with plastic bags as intrusive, the ban is also opposed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance. The group states that a statewide ban would lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs in the plastic bag manufacturing sector while also being burdensome to those who actually reuse the bags to scoop dog poop and line small wastebaskets.

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.

State environmental groups along with a number of large grocer and retail unions and organizations enthusiastically support doing away with single-use plastic bags. As noted by The Wall Street Journal, the ban would enable retailers and other businesses to redirect money normally spent on plastic bags to other uses (worker training and food safety initiatives being two of them) while also profiting from the sale of paper and reusable plastic bags.

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. 

Any thoughts, Californians? Those living in cities and counties where plastic shopping bags have already been sacked, how have you managed? Those living in parts of the state without existing local plastic bag bans, do you support the bill?

Via [LA Times], [WSJ]

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

California inches closer to statewide ban on disposable plastic bags
In California, where numerous municipalities have already given single-use plastic bags the boot, lawmakers approve a statewide bag ban.