Plastic bag fee passes Calif. committee

SACRAMENTO In these belt-tightening times, a trip to the store could cost more in California. The Assembly Natural Resources Committee just passed a proposal to add 25 cents to every bag you need for your purchases.

"That's ridiculous. I think the prices are high enough in this economy," said Andrea Malaspino, a California resident. "I'm a single mom with four children, and I get a lot of groceries every month, and I think if they charge 25 cents per bag, it's really going to add up in the long run."

You can avoid the fee by simply bringing your own bags. The idea is to get Californians away from using an estimated 19 billion plastic bags per year. The bags mostly end up littering neighborhoods, coastlines and landfills. Less 0than 5 percent are recycled, according the state Integrated Waste Management Board.

"There's some studies done that showed there's more plastic in the ocean than plankton in some parts. So it's been a wake-up call. Other countries are doing their part," said Bryan Early, Californians Against Waste. "So it's really up to the West Coast now."

Lawmakers have previously tried to impose a fee on plastic bags. This proposal includes paper.

"De-forestization, and other kinds of things like that. We don't feel as though paper bags is a good alternative when really what we want is for people to bring their own reusable bags," said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), who wrote the bill.

Taxpayers already spend $300 million a year cleaning up litter; the fee would pay for some of that cost.

While shoppers on welfare and food stamps would be exempt from the bag fee, Larry Lester thinks the 25-cent charge would be enough to motivate him to change his ways since he's watching his budget.

"I could live with that. I could bring my own stuff in, carry it out, empty it out and bring it back again. I could live with that," said Lester.

When Ireland instituted a bag fee, usage dropped 90 percent.

The following municipalities have passed plastic-bag bans/reduction plans:
Los Angeles County (reduction ordinance)
Manhattan Beach (temporarily suspended)
Oakland (temporarily suspended)
Palo Alto
San Francisco

The following municipalities have considered/are considering a ban/fee/reduction plan for plastic bags:
Foster City
Long Beach
Los Angeles City
Mendocino County
Marin County
Palm Springs
San Diego
Santa Monica
Santa Clara County (and all its 15 cities, including San Jose)

Information provided by Californians Against Waste.



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