Lawmakers to Charge for Plastic Bag Use

One-thousand miles off the coast of California, a vortex of ocean currents forms a vast swath of sea twice the size of Texas, known as the Northern Pacific Geyer.

There is six times more plastic than plankton in Geyer, and it is permeating the food chain, said Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resource Foundation.

"There is not only more plastic than plankton, but there is plastic in the plankton, and there is plastic in the fish that we eat," she said.

She said bag use needed to be curtailed because they're inherently difficult to recycle. The 25 cent fee in California is a small price to pay compared to the expense of a clean up.

"You think you're getting those bags for free, but in nature, nothing is free. For 30 minutes of use, we end up having to destroy rainforests in Indonesia to get the natural gas, and dealing with the politics of the Middle East to get oil and then we still have the problem of the waiting more than 100 years for the bags to breakdown."

All of the Republican members of the Assembly voted against Levine's bill, which still needs to be passed the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to become law.

Republicans opposed the measure, arguing it would add hundreds of dollars a year to the grocery bills when California families already feeling the pinch of high food and gas prices.   "Hard-working Californians are struggling to pay record-high prices for food and gas; the last thing they need are higher taxes," said Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines of Fresno in a statement. "This bill will hurt families by forcing shoppers to pay a new tax on every paper and plastic bag they use at grocery stores, making grocery bills even more expensive."

Under the current bill, the fees collected will be used by the businesses to invest in local environmental projects. But according to Levine that provision is "place holder" and the bill will be re-written before being voted on by the Senate to ensure the communities control the money collected from the 25-cent fees.

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