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Assemblymember Levine Proposes Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags

Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) today introduced legislation (Assembly Bill 158) to ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) today introduced legislation (Assembly Bill 158) to ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

"To continue the use of these bags would ignore the convincing body of global evidence proving that these bags are having a drastic effect on marine ecocultures," Levine said.  "Additionally, there are several easily available and affordable alternatives to plastic bags.  We need to ban these bags once and for all."

Globally, it is estimated that we use more than 500 billion plastic bags annually.  Plastic bags account for roughly 10% of all the debris that washes up on our beaches.  Hundreds of thousands of marine fish and mammals are killed annually as plastic bags float out to sea.

Specific provisions of AB 158 would in part include the following:

 1.  Beginning on January 1, 2015, full-line grocery stores with more than $2 million in annual sales or retailers with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space from be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags to customers.
 2.  From January 1, 2015 to July 30, 2016, stores above could provide recycled paper bags to customers.
 3.  Stores subject to this bill would be required to make reusable grocery bags available for sale.

Last year, Marin County's ban on single-use carry-out plastic bags went into effect.  "It is no longer a secret.  Banning plastic bags is good for our environment and fine for business," said Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey. "It is working in Marin and makes sense for all of California.  I am pleased that Assemblymember Levine is providing a path way there."

"This issue is being taken up at the local level in California as dozens of City Councils and Boards of Supervisors consider resolutions banning plastic grocery bags.  The elimination of plastic bags is inevitable and it is time for a statewide solution to this problem," said Levine.  "I look forward to working with environmental advocates, plastics manufacturers, grocers, and retailers on crafting legislation that can be implemented expediently, effectively, and economically."

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Assemblymember Levine represents the 10th Assembly District which includes Marin County and southern Sonoma County.

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Catherine Gloria Tripp January 23, 2013 at 08:28 PM
I do NOT approve of this ban. An unintended consequence of this ban would be impelling citizens who were re-using plastic bags as trash can liners, pet waste pick up, etc. to order new ones be manufactured. There are bins to recycle them at every Safeway. Frequently the paper bags have no handles and there is no way for our elderly or disabled to safely transport their purchases (the handles allow purchases to hang of the handles of wheelchairs and walkers). Let's change the dominant paradigm of punishing the population to incentivizing the populace to shop with re-usable bags.
Mike Van Horn January 23, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Likewise, plastic bags are very important when purchasing produce. A shopper must have some container. We can't toss a bunch of grapes or mushrooms or snow peas into a grocery basket. We could bring our own bags we've purchased, but that has no net benefit. We could reuse plastic bags that we bring from home, but after awhile these become unsanitary. We could use small paper bags, but that's no benefit over plastic. All produce could be prepackaged, but that's more wrapping, and people want to purchase open produce. I always thought Marc Levine was a reasonable man, but this kind of ban is unworkable.
Citizen January 24, 2013 at 06:42 PM
I support this ban. Reusable bags are widely available, very inexpensive, and last a long, long time (I have canvas bags that are over 20 years old). If people need plastic bags for their homes (I sure don't), they can buy them (or, better yet, switch to paper liners). These reusable bags even have handles and can be used by the elderly and disabled.
HistoryLover January 24, 2013 at 07:02 PM
I agree with Catherine. Why pass laws to ban things when most citizens are able to make the right choice? Do we need the bag police to come in and save us? Why not ban smoking? It is bad for the envirnoment, too. I think freedom is better than numerous ridiculous law and penalities. Catherine brings up some very good points.
Citizen January 24, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Participate in any creek/park/shoreline clean-up effort and I guarantee that you will see plastic bags as the trash they are. If so many people are voluntarily making the right choice, why do so many litter our streams and trails? Bring your own bags. It's not that hard.
Robert J. Cleek January 25, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Well, folks, it depends on what you're worrying about. If you are worried about "marine ecocultures" at the expense of global warming and general air and water pollution, it would seem legislation regarding the proper disposal of plastic bags is a lot more sensible than an outright ban... if it bothers you all that much. Fact is, the University of Oregon (where you'd think they'd be biased towards wood pulp products) says these legistative grandstanding plastic bag bans are pure horse puckey. http://cascade.uoregon.edu/fall2012/expert/expert-article/ Turns out paper and cotton canvas bags have a much larger carbon footprint and do much more harm to the environment, so sayeth the environmental scientists. What we have here is just another example of half-baked unscientific eco-fascist knee jerking. We all share your concern for the environment, Mr. Levine. Now, may I suggest you just give it a rest.
Claire January 25, 2013 at 07:31 PM
In Europe there is no such thing as free grocery bags - not plastic ones nor paper ones. Everybody brings their own bag(s). Bags are available for purchase for 10 cents or perhaps even 20 cents in some cases, just in case you did forget your bag. If stores charged for bags, it would prevent a ban from having to be issued. People then would have a real choice, like they do in Europe, to bring their own bag or pay for one. This could resolve multiple issues: the money the stores raise through the sale of bags should go to environmental causes of cleaning up plastic bags on shorelines and wherever else they show up as trash and it would solve the dilemma of pet owners of having to buy bags to dispose of their pets business. If they have to buy bags anyway to dispose of their pets waste, they may as well buy them at the store while shopping for groceries - problem solved. Elderly and disabled people can get used to using reusable bags or - they can pay for the bags too.

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