The California Grocers Association is expressing support for a proposed law in the state legislature that would introduce a state-wide standard for disposable shopping bags.

The California State Assembly passed legislation that would, if adopted by the Senate and signed by the Governor, begin a phase-out of all single-use plastic grocery bags at supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience and liquor stores in the state.

AB 1998 passed the assembly with 41 votes on 1 June 2010 and now goes to the State Senate. Governor Schwarzenegger’s office has signaled he is prepared to sign the bill.

The bill is aimed at reducing the more than 19 billion single use grocery bags generated in California annually. Consumers will be encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. Paper bags with high levels (40% postconsumer) recycled content would also be available for their actual cost, which currently ranges between 5¢ – 8¢ a bag.

Californians Against Waste (CAW) joined Assemblymember Julia Brownley and a coalition of environmental groups, grocery stores, and labor groups to announce a growing wave of support for legislation to ban plastic bags in California.

“These so-called ‘free bags’ are an environmental and economic nightmare,” said CAW Executive Director Mark Murray. “Californians use and discard more than 2 million plastic bags every minute of every day and many of those end up as pollution in our parks, streams and ocean.”

  • Industry and Environmentalists agree that roughly 19 billion plastic bags are distributed in California annually.
  • In 2006, CAW joined with retailers and the plastics industry in enacting AB 2994 (Levine), legislation aimed at increasing the recycling of plastic bags. However, despite that effort, less than 5% are currently recycled.
  • Even when bags are initially properly disposed, they often blow out of trash cans, garbage trucks, and landfills and become litter.
  • Most California retailers currently subsidize the cost of plastic and paper bags. This cost is estimated at more than $400 million annually, and is undoubtedly passed on to consumers in the form of higher grocery costs.
  • In January, Washington, DC enacted a 5¢ ‘fee’ on grocery bags. That policy has been credited with reducing single-use bags by 65%.
  • 60–80% of marine debris pollution overall, and 90% of the floating marine debris, is plastic litter.
  • More then 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die annually through ingestion of or entanglement in marine debris which includes plastic bags.
  • AB 1998 is supported by Retailers, Environmental Groups, Local Governments, Labor, and the nation’s largest paper bag manufacturer (Duro Bags).

Check out the Californians Against Waste website for more information.