“Paper or Plastic?” California Answers That Question for Residents

It'll be paper—and it'll cost ya. A new law in the state—the first of its kind—mandates that stores stop using disposable plastic bags and charge for paper or compostable bags. The law has industry groups eyeing a ballot proposal to stop it from going into effect.

It’ll be paper—and it’ll cost ya. A new law in the state, the first of its kind, mandates that stores stop using disposable plastic bags and charge for paper or compostable bags. The law has industry groups planning a ballot measure to stop it from going into effect.

The single-use plastic bag—that scourge of environmentalists—may become a thing of the past in California. But that hasn’t stopped industry groups from fighting the effort.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, that would end the use of plastic bags by retailers. It is the first such law to pass at the state level after numerous communities and counties passed similar measures in recent years.

“This bill is a step in the right direction—it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said upon signing SB 270. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The law, which goes into effect for large retailers (with some exceptions) by July 2015 and for smaller stores by July 2016, also puts a price tag of “not less than” 10 cents each on recycled paper or compostable bags.

Plastic, Paper Groups: Bag the Bill

Among the bill’s supporters was the California Grocers Association, the main sponsor of the “Yes on SB 270” campaign. CGA says the law “will bring uniformity to California, while further reducing the use of plastic bags.”

But opponents vowed to continue the fight. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry coalition launched by plastics industry trade group SPI, pledged to launch a referendum effort to prevent the bill from taking effect. It characterized the measure as “a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit.”

“Fortunately, California’s constitution provides voters the opportunity to stop bad laws through the referendum process,” Lee Califf, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement.

The American Forest & Paper Association, meanwhile, took issue with both the 10-cent tax on paper bags and the “onerous post-consumer recycled content criteria” required for bags.

“With a stroke of his pen, the governor has mandated a regressive tax on consumers in order to profit special interests and put at risk hundreds of California paper-bag manufacturing jobs,” AF&PA Vice President Cathy Foley said in a statement.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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