California May Impose a Plastic Bag Ban: Is it a Good Idea or Too Tough?

California may soon be the first state in the country to impose a strict ban on plastic bags.

The "green" law is intended to encourage shoppers at grocery, convenience and other stores to bring along their own reusable totes, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. If they don't have a tote, they could either buy a reusable bag or choose paper bags, available for a minimum 5-cent fee. Stores couldn't hand out paper bags for free.

Californians use19 billion plastic bags every year. While the bags are convenient, environmentalists argue they're tough to recycle and encourage oil drilling because bags are made from petroleum. Critics of the bill say that it amounts to a new tax on Californians.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he supports the bill, which is up for a vote in the state Assembly this week. If it passes the Senate later this year, it could go into effect January 2012.

While California would be the first to institute a statewide ban, others have tried similar ideas.

San Francisco imposed a plastic bag ban in 2007, and other California cities including Oakland and Malibu have since followed suit.

Washington, D.C., started charging 5 cents for paper and plastic bags at the beginning of this year, with revenue funding a river cleanup effort. Although the city hasn't banned plastic entirely, the fee has made a big difference, reducing disposable bag use by 86 percent since the start of the year.

So, what do you think? Is California's plastic bag ban a good idea or too tough?