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Assembly votes to ban plastic grocery bags

June 2, 2010 |  5:07 pm

The California Assembly approved a bill that would ban single-use plastic grocery bags, requiring shoppers to bring their own reusable bags or pay at least 5 cents each for recycled-paper bags at the checkout counter. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated that he will sign the bill if it makes it through the Senate.

The bill passed with the bare minimum votes required, 41 to 27.

The measure, AB 1998, written by Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), would make California the first state to pass such a ban, said Brownley spokeswoman Linda Rappatoni. Environmentalists say the bags endanger marine life and are more likely to foul beaches than any other form of pollution.  Californians use 19 billion such bags a year, or 552 per person, according to an Assembly analysis report.

The measure was sponsored by the Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay. It is opposed by the plastics industry.

"The governor has always supported this concept," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "We look forward to seeing the final version of the bill."

Cities across the country have already instituted such bans, including San Francisco, Palo Alto and Malibu.  “From an operational perspective, it’s easier to have a statewide ban than it is to have to figure out how to operate city to city,” said Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

The measure is endorsed by the California Grocers Assn. and the United Food and Commercial Workers Western State Council, the grocery employees union for which Pérez was previously a top executive.

“It doesn’t surprise me that certain elements of big business have removed their opposition,” said U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), alluding to the fee that shoppers would have to pay for paper bags. “We’ve seen this time and time again: As long as they don’t get gouged, they’re more than happy to dump the consumer under the bus.”

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento