Shoppers in San Francisco's Chinatown with plastic bags. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
Shoppers in San Francisco’s Chinatown with plastic bags. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Key California legislators have reached an agreement that could lead to a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies by 2016, officials say.

Lawmakers in Sacramento have debated similar proposals for years, facing opposition from manufacturers that produce billions of plastic shopping bags each year.

The agreement calls for using $2 million for loans and grants that could help those companies retrain workers and convert to manufacturing “a new generation of reusable bags with the smallest environmental footprint,” a summary of the legislation said.

State Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat who helped broker the deal, said Thursday the agreement balances “the health of the planet with the preservation of people’s livelihoods.”

“It bridges the gap and moves the economy forward into a green future,” de León said in a statement. “We will dramatically reduce the scourge of single-use plastic bags … and at the same time grow jobs.”

Los Angeles and nearly 100 other cities and counties in the state have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags at stores. If approved by the Legislature, the bill would extend a similar prohibition across the rest of the state. The local laws would remain in effect.

The bill summary says supermarkets would have to stop using the bags by July 2015, and the ban would extend to smaller stores a year later. With plastic bags prohibited, stores could sell recycled-paper or reusable bags for at least 10 cents each.

Similar bans have been enacted in other jurisdictions around the U.S., but California is a trendsetter on environmental issues and advocates hope other states would follow its lead.

In 2005, nearly 30 billion single-use plastic bags were generated in California, according to the bill summary, a figure since cut in half by city and county bans.

“We are going to go after this legislation takes effect … to zero,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, an advocacy group. “That means less litter, less pollution, less waste.”

Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry association representing plastic bag manufacturers, called the proposal “another job-killing, big-grocer cash grab masquerading as an environmental bill.”

“Large grocery chains are pushing this bag ban … at the expense of their customers,” he said in a statement.

Cathy Browne, general manager of bag manufacturer Crown Poly Inc. in Huntington Park, outside Los Angeles, said imports dominate the reusable bag market and the $2 million proposed for training and new equipment would be “a drop in the bucket.”

  • Brigit

    We’ve had a ban on plastic bags in the unincorporated parts of Santa Cruz county for over a year now. It’s just second nature now to take our bags to the store, no problem.

  • paxdonnaverde

    It’s obvious that Crown Poly has oil money behind them. Their first complaint was that it would put people in California out of jobs. When offered retraining and a way out, they balked. Our citizens are constantly being asked to adapt, so must corporations.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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