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CA Senate Rejects Bag Ban
Volume 745
September 7, 2010

California's Senate last week voted down a measure that would have banned plastic bags from grocery, drug and certain convenience stores. The ban, which passed the state's Assembly in June, already had the support of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and would have become law in 2012 if the Senate had approved the legislation. "This is a sad day for California," said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, author of the bill. "Communities across the state were waiting for the state to adopt a uniform, statewide ban on single-use bags before they adopt their own ordinances. The state failed them."

The legislation, which was intended to reduce pollution by encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable totes to stores, was defeated by seven votes. While a notable loss for environmentalists, the decision is a significant victory for the plastics industry, which lobbied intensely against the ban. "Mandating isn't the best way to go," said Keith Christman, a managing director at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which opposed the bill. "People should have a choice in how they bag their groceries."

While the ACC claimed the ban would lead to a loss of 1,000 California jobs, Brownley and environmental groups argued the ban would protect wildlife and save taxpayers millions annually in waste cleanup costs. Despite this week's statewide vote, leaders in many California communities, including Los Angeles and Santa Monica, are pursuing local plastic bag bans similar to the ones already in effect in California cities such as San Francisco, Palo Alto, Fairfax and Malibu. Nationally, Washington, D.C. now charges five cents for paper and plastic bags, while the city government in Austin, TX, is debating whether to ban plastic shopping bags altogether.

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