California One Step Closer to Banning Plastic Bags

Three weeks after the country's largest plastic bag ban took effect in Los Angeles, a trio of L.A.-area state lawmakers said today they are reviving efforts to take the ban statewide.

The announcement comes less than a year after a statewide ban proposed by state Sen. Alex Padilla, a former Los Angeles councilman, failed in the state legislature.

Padilla said his new bill, SB 270, would address long-running concerns that a ban may lead to job loss among plastic bags industry workers, while ensuring single-use plastic bags no longer "fill our landfills, clog inland waterways, litter our coastline and kill thousands of fish, marine mammals and seabirds."

Under the new bill, plastic bag businesses would be able to apply for loans or grants to help them transition into manufacturing reusable bags, with the caveat that the companies keep the same workers, Padilla said.

"This bill strikes the right balance," Padilla said. "It will not only protect the environment. It will also protect jobs as California transitions to re-usable bags."

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Padilla and fellow bill authors Sen. Kevin de Leon and Ricardo Lara announced the new bill outside Vernon bag manufacturing company Command Packaging, a company that is starting to produce re-usable bags.

"This compromise will bridge the gap and help move the economy forward into a green future," de Leon said.

The lawmakers were also joined by representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers, a grocer workers' union; the California Grocers Association; and several environmental groups.

Jim Araby, executive director of the UFCW's Western States Council, which represents 150,000 workers in California, said they support the statewide ban and the effort to "re-invest" savings from the ban into "workers training programs and food safety initiatives for consumers."

The bill calls for a statewide ban to take effect for grocery stores and pharmacies on July 1, 2015, and for convenience and liquor stores on July 1, 2016. The bill would also allow the 90 or so cities that already have plastic bag bans in place to keep their own restrictions and provisions.

According to Padilla, about 14 billion plastic bags are given out each year, with just 5 percent of bags getting recycled.

State and local governments expend about $10 million a year to clean-up plastic bag litter a year, he said.

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