California Strikes Down Proposal to Ban Plastic Bags

Lawmakers say the ban went too far in regulating personal choice.

ByABC News
August 31, 2010, 12:24 AM

Sept. 1, 2010 — -- After contentious debate, California lawmakers rejected a bill late Tuesday night that would have made the state the first in the nation to ban all plastic shopping bags. Opponents of the bill argued that the ban went too far to regulate personal choice.

The measure, AB 1998, which passed the Assembly in June, would have eliminated single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies starting in 2012, and in liquor stores and convenience stores in 2013. The bill, which was rejected by the Senate, was intended to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable totes.

Without a tote, they would have been able to buy one at the store or purchase a recyclable paper bag for 4 to 6 cents. Some California cities, including San Francisco, already have such a plastic bag ban in place.

Republicans and some Democrats opposed the bill, saying it would have added an extra financial burden on consumers and businesses already facing tough times.

"If we pass this piece of legislation, we will be sending a message to the people of California that we care more about banning plastic bags than helping them put food on their table," said Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who authored the bill, said rejecting the bill was a failure to the people of California.

"It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when consumers bring their own bags and become good stewards of the environment," Brownley said in a statement early Wednesday morning.

Brownley had been trying to pass legislation to address the problem for three years. She said the bags clog California waterways, pollute the ocean and have led to the loss of various species of wildlife.

"Plastic bags are a ubiquitous product," she said. "Consumers [have been] using it exponentially over the last decade.

"[California] uses 19 billion plastic bags a year. ... We use them for 10 minutes and it takes 1,000 years to break down."

She said it costs the state $25 million a year to to clean up the mess. "It's very difficult to really completely clean it up," Brownley said. "It's very easy for us to change our habits."