Start saying goodbye to plastic bags in the Golden State. California is poised to become the first state in the nation to cut down on waste by blocking stores from distributing free plastic bags to customers. This past Friday, by a vote of 22 to 15, California State Senators passed SB 270, a measure that targets environmentally unfriendly single-use plastic bags.
The bill is not 100% at this point because, as always, the governor has to sign the legislation to make it a law. Green activists are optimistic that Governor Jerry Brown will sign rather than veto, but are taking nothing for granted, particularly since Brown has officially declined to comment on the matter. Brown has until the end of September to make his decision.
Even if signed, the law won’t take effect immediately. Supermarkets and pharmacies will have to phase out their plastic bags by July of 2015. Smaller stores, meanwhile, will have to follow exactly one year later in 2016. However, all stores will still be able to sell recycled bags to shoppers at a cost of at least 10 cents per bag.
California has already been a national leader in the bag-banning front, although up until now, the bans have been limited to specific areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Marin County. Altogether 124 cities and/or counties in the state have taken the initiative to stop excessive bag consumption, including everyone in the state will do a lot to curb plastic bags from winding up in the ocean and smaller waterways. Furthermore, the existing communities that have such bans have demonstrated how these efforts are successful without being too much of a burden to shoppers.
Despite mounting support for ditching widespread plastic bag use, it hasn’t been an easy journey for the legislation to make it this far. Just last year, similar legislation failed to pass by three votes. This time around, the bill gained a critical endorsement from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which helped to turn the tides.
With an election this fall, Governor Brown is facing criticism from his Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari. Kashkari called the focus on plastic bags “embarrassing” and made fun of the governor’s lack of priorities on more pressing issues like jobs and education. Then again, it’s completely unfair to act as though bags are Brown’s top priority when he hasn’t even commented on the issue yet. Moreover, since Kashkari considers reducing plastic waste “embarrassing,” it’s indicative of his own troubling disregard for state environmental concerns.
Nonetheless, let’s not allow SB 270 to become an election year casualty. Sign this petition to tell Governor Jerry Brown that you support the statewide plastic bag ban and would appreciate him signing the bill into law.