Ocean debris worldwide kills at least one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year. Plastic is the single largest source of ocean litter. Americans dispose of about 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year. This also involves the use of at least 12 million barrels of oil in their production. According to the EPA, less than five percent of plastic grocery bags are recycled in the U.S.
California State Legislature has taken a bold step to curb this menace by passing a bill that imposes a statewide ban on disposable plastic bags. If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, this legislation would make California the first state in the country that will become free of retail plastic bags. The ban will prohibit California grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores and other businesses from providing the common plastic bags to customers.
Proponents of the legislation say that plastic bags are often littered and rarely recycled. The proposed legislation also stipulates that if the retailers offer paper bags to customers in place of plastic bags, these would have to include recycled content. Customers will be able to purchase paper bags for 10 cents, or bring their own bags to avoid being charged. The measure would also assist businesses that will transition to the manufacture of reusable bags with competitive loans of up to $2 million.
According to an estimate by Californians Against Waste, an environmental group supporting the bill, more than 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year. The group said that it is no longer a matter of speculation whether banning plastic bags is a good policy. Wherever such ban is already implemented, it not only reduces plastic pollution and waste, but also lowers bag costs at grocery stores, and spurs job growth at facilities that produce better alternatives.
The California Grocers Association supports the statewide ban, saying that it will remove a patchwork of local legislations. Ron Fong, President of the Association said that the bill is widely supported by groups representing environmental causes, workers, the poor, and business interests. It is rare to witness such a diverse and sweeping coalition standing behind a policy.
Image Credit: Flickr via PinkMoose