[JURIST] The California Legislature [official website] on Friday enacted a ban [Reuters report] on the use of plastic grocery bags in the state. The bill [SB 270, text], if signed into law, will become the first law of its kind in the US. Some cities and counties within the state have successfully enacted the ban but the law had not yet passed at the state level due to opposition from plastic bag manufacturers. California Governor Gerry Brown [official website] has until the end of September to sign the bill. California Senator Alex Padilla [official website] introduced the bill in an effort to reduce the amount of litter caused in the state by plastic bags. The measure would prohibit state grocery stores from using plastic to bag groceries and would provide money for the plastic bag manufacturing industry to design and create more durable, multi-purpose bags that customers can purchase. Advocacy group Californians Against Waste [advocacy website] estimates that over 10 billion hard-to-recycle plastic bags are distributed each year in the state.
International awareness about the environmental consequences of the widespread usage of lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags has increased. Plastic bags, often made from [Greener Footprints report] nonrenewable sources that can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, are causing a myriad of problems worldwide such as litter, killing wildlife, and drain blocking, which can lead to serious flooding. Several countries, cities and food chains have banned the use of the bags entirely. For example, in 2008, Whole Foods [press release] and Ikea [Ikea report, PDF], citing environmental concerns, stopped using plastic bags for customer purchases. Also in 2008, China [Worldwatch Institute report] banned the use of very thin plastic bags at shopping establishments. Austin, Texas banned [Earth Policy Institute report] plastic bags in 2013 and in January 2014, Los Angeles because the largest US city to ban the use of plastic bags. Environmentalists argue the solution is to use sturdier, heavy-weight bags that can be used repeatedly.