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CA Plastic Bag Ban Idea Catching On?

July 14, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After three decades, the old question, "Paper or plastic?" may soon be a thing of the past in California. The Golden State became the first to address this issue with the Plastic Bag Recycling Act of 2006, designed to curb the use of an estimated 19 billion bags per year in the state by instituting recycling programs.

Now, California Assembly Bill 1998 could prohibit supermarkets and pharmacies from providing single-use plastic carryout bags altogether. Dave Heylan of the California Grocers Association explains why his organization is in favor of the bill.

"We wanted to make it uniform statewide, so we could have the greatest amount of environmental gain, while having the least amount of impact on retailers and their day-to-day business."

In 1977, plastic grocery bags were introduced to American supermarkets as an alternative to paper ones that were filling up landfills. A new story from points to the fact that many of the bags are discarded in other ways, found along roadsides, coastlines and caught in trees after being blown by the wind.

If AB 1998 passes, it would not go into effect until January 1, 2012, giving retailers and shoppers time to adjust. So, if paper and plastic are out, what is a shopper to do? Heylan has a suggestion.

"What the consumer can do is just begin the process of remembering to bring their reusable bag."

Several groups are voicing opposition to the bill, including the Biodegradable Products Institute, which supports the use of bags that break down in landfills and in water, as well as bag manufacturing companies. Similar legislation is on the books in dozens of other states as well as in many cities nationwide. ( contributed content to this story)

James Hudson, Public News Service - CA