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Calif. bans plastic bags at grocery stores

There's a growing movement to ban single-use plastic bags because many end up in the ocean threatening wildlife.

June 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Billions of plastic bags are given out by grocery and liquor stores in California every year, and many end up in the ocean threatening wildlife.The California Assembly passed Bill 1998 Wednesday, which bans single-use plastic bags from being given out at large retailers, including supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and liquor stores. According to the bill, stores could provide reusable bags and 40-percent post consumer paper bags to customers for a fee.

California taxpayers spend approximately $25 million annually to collect and bury the 19 billion plastic bags used every year. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, less than five percent of all single-use plastic bags in the state are actually recycled.

Environmental groups stress the damage to marine life. Plastic bags have killed or injured nearly 300 different species worldwide, primarily through ingestion and entanglement.

"Enough is enough. We need to break our addiction to single-use plastic packaging, and we need to do it now and this bill is the logical first step in doing so," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay.

State Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of Santa Monica introduced the bill. If the state Senate approves the bill, the law will go into effect January 2012, making California the first state in the U.S. to ban plastic bags statewide.

"Californians will signal to the nation its commitment to wean itself from a costly plastic and paper bag habit that is threatening marine life and spoiling the natural beauty of this state," said Brownley.

"We can all agree that something that we're using for five minutes, that's costing 2 to 5 cents to make and costing 17 cents to clean up, shouldn't last for 500 years," said actress Rosario Dawson.

The cities of Malibu, San Francisco and Oakland already have a ban against plastic bags.

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