[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Tuesday signed [press release] a bill [SB270 text, PDF] issuing a statewide ban against single-use plastic bags. Beginning in July 2016 grocery and convenience stores across the state will be required to supply reusable, multi-purpose bags to customers to be sold for profit. This law, the first of its kind in the US, is in response to the growing amount of trash and litter building up along the coastline, damaging the ecosystem. Upon the governor’s signing, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins stated that “Removing the harmful blight of single-use plastic bags, especially along our coastline and waterways, helps ensure the kind of clean and healthy environment we need to have a stronger economy and a brighter future.” 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. Advocacy group Californians Against Waste [advocacy website] estimates that more than 10 billion hard-to-recycle plastic bags are distributed each year in the state. A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers has already stated that it would seek a voter referendum to appeal the new law.
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.